How to Collect Your Personal Injury Payments
You’ve gone through the settlement claims process and have reached an agreement with the insurance adjuster. Now comes the big question: How do you get paid?
In this article, we’ll discuss 2 main things:
What is the Settlement Check Process?
Step 1. Agreeing and Documenting
At the end of the personal injury claims process you will (typically) verbally agree with your insurance adjuster on a settlement amount. Sometimes the adjuster will send you the compensation offer in the mail.
These verbal agreements are usually contingent upon you signing a release form. More on those later — but for now the key is getting things in writing.
If you’ve not been sent a letter draft up something confirming the amount you agreed upon and send it to your adjuster (certified mail) and be sure to keep copies for your own records.
One of the keys to a successful accident claim is being diligent about your documentation.
Step 2. Signing the Release Form
The next step involves signing a release form and actually getting a settlement check. A release is simply a document stating that you are releasing the insurance company from responsibility in exchange for an agreed upon settlement.
In a week or two following your verbal agreement with the insurance company, you should receive a release form in the mail. Usually, the check is withheld until this release is signed.
A good insurance adjuster will have briefed you on all of this and addressed any questions you have — but if not, the following should help.
When you get the release form review it carefully to make sure it’s in line with your interests and that no mistakes were made. If you’re unsure if all the expenses for your claim have been resolved it’s probably best to wait.
There is no rule that says you need to sign and return the release immediately.
Different Insurance carriers, along with varying states, and other legislative bodies may require specific language in their releases — so there is no single way that a release form will read.
Despite the different wording release forms are generally hitting on 3 key points:
- You release the insurance company from further liability. Meaning once the release is signed you generally will not be further compensated for the claim, even if you were to discover further damages.
- The insurance company is paying your claim but does not admit that they or their insureds were at fault. Don’t be overly concerned with this, most of it has to due to with statistics and the company’s image.
- You acknowledge that you do have any other claim against the insurance company for the related incident. This means that the settlement check you are receiving covers your damages and you are giving up the right to file another claim.
It’s easy to get hung up on some of the legal jargon written into a release form — if you get lost ask someone to give it a read. Sometimes another pair of eyes is all that’s needed.
Conversely, if you truly don’t understand it or have concerns about the settlement itself you can contact the adjuster, if they don’t satisfy you ask for a manager or if all else fails speak with a lawyer (usually only worthwhile if the value of a claim is relatively high).
At the end of the day you need to be a strong advocate for yourself and this is the critical last opportunity to do that.
Step 3. Getting the Settlement Check
You now understand the release form, you’ve copied it, signed it and returned it to the insurance company.
The 3 Most Common Questions about Your Settlement Check.
1. How long does it take to receive your settlement check?
This is the question everyone wants to know. As a rule of thumb, it would be reasonable to expect a check within 2-3 weeks.
But sometimes it can take longer. Remember insurance companies are large often bureaucratic entities, so if you check doesn’t arrive in 2 weeks don’t stress. If attorneys were involved in your claim this can slow down the process as well.
Many carriers have status checkers on their websites which can help if you’re concerned about your status. For example, if you are filing a claim against one of the 3 major car insurance companies, you can check the status of your accident claim by visiting these sites below:
2. If you cash the settlement check is your claim closed?
No, not if the check is from your own insurance company. If the check is from another party’s insurer (in the case of an auto accident where your claim is against the other driver’s insurer) and a release has been signed, yes, for all intents and purposes your accident claim is closed.
3. You’re promised a settlement check, it doesn’t come. What do you do?
Obviously you’ll want to contact the insurance adjuster first. They have been your main point of contact throughout the entire claims process and would be the best place to start.
Odds are pretty good that nothing has gone wrong aside from an adjuster with backed up paperwork or a dysfunctional claims office.
This, however, is NOT an excuse. If you feel something’s just isn’t right you can always turn to your state’s insurance board. Every state has a governing body for its insurance industry and they can step in on your behalf if your relationship with the insurance company breaks down.
If you have been able to get through accident claim process and are waiting to receive your settlement check, just remember these few key points:
- Make sure to document (have hard copies) any agreements between you and your adjuster.
- Before you receive the money, you will have to sign a release form.
- Make sure you read the release form thoroughly and understand it completely before signing.
- You usually get the check after a few weeks of waiting.
- If you are dissatisfied you can always contact your state’s insurance board
Best of luck.
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