My car accident attorney wants me to sign a settlement release, but I don’t know how much I’ll get in my pocket. Is that how it works?
It is not uncommon for a personal injury attorney to send a settlement release to a client and ask the client to sign it, without explaining to the client how much the client will end up with in their pocket. A settlement for $15,000 does not mean you will get $15,000 in your pocket. Keep in mind that the following deductions will occur before you get your money:
- Attorney’s fees (which come off the top)
- Costs - the amounts your lawyer paid out working up the case. If your case settled before a lawsuit was filed, the costs are generally relatively low and can include, for example, obtaining the police report and obtaining your medical records and bills. If your case settled after a lawsuit was filed, the costs can run into the thousands of dollars, and can include a filing fee (the amount charged by the court when you lawsuit was filed), court reporter fees, and expert witness fees.
- Medical bills (medical liens and health insurance reimbursement claims)
If a case settles before a lawsuit is filed, it is not uncommon for there to be a three-way split: 1/3 to the client, 1/3 to the doctors and 1/3 to the client.
If there are medical liens or health insurance reimbursement claims that must be paid, then your attorney can’t tell you what you will end up with in your pocket until the law firm has negotiated reduction of those reimbursement claims. Both lien doctors and health insurance companies will typically reduce their reimbursement claims.
BOTTOM LINE: Before you sign a settlement release, you have a right to know what you’ll end up with. You don’t want any surprises. Tell your lawyer that you want to see a settlement breakdown before you sign the release. If the law firm tells you that the breakdown isn’t finalized because they are still working on getting reductions or waiting to learn the final reimbursement amount from Medi-Cal or Medicare, ask the law firm to provide you with an estimate of what you’ll get in your pocket.
If you currently have a personal injury lawyer, but have concerns about the way your case is being handled, call McGee, Lerer & Associates for a free confidential second opinion.