My personal injury case settled three days ago. I signed the check and gave it to my lawyer. I still haven’t got any money. What is going on?
When a personal injury case is settled, the insurance company sends a check and a release to the claimant’s lawyer. The lawyer asks the claimant to sign the release and endorse the check. When the check is endorsed, it is deposited into the lawyer’s trust account. The lawyer cannot immediately write the client a check because the insurance company’s bank has not yet paid the check. It can take as many as 10 business days for a check to "clear." As soon as the check clears the lawyer’s bank the lawyer will be able to write you a check.
The lawyer may not be able to write you a check for all of the money to which you are eventually entitled. For example, if you received Medicare benefits in connection with your personal injury, Medicare must be re-paid from the proceeds of the settlement. Medicare is horribly slow about getting settlement figures to lawyers in these cases, so the prudent lawyer holds out more money than is probably required so that he or she can be assured that there will be enough money to repay Medicare. Thus, the lawyer may write you one check now and another check after the Medicare issue has been worked out.
There are several other reasons why a lawyer might need to hold some of your money in his or her trust account for a while. If you don’t understand why some or all of your money is being held by your lawyer, be sure to ask. Almost certainly he or she will be able to put your mind at ease.