Personal injury payouts – how long before you get your settlement check?


The  U.S. Department of Justice estimated that some 16,397 tort cases were tried nationally. Considering that only 4% of personal injury cases actually go to trial and that the majority settle out of court, personal injury claims numbered 409,925. You may be asking yourself, is it worth hiring a personal injury attorney? The  short answer is yes as they typically work on contingency meaning you won’t owe anything until after they have won damages for you. It’s imperative to have an experienced advocate on your side to not only guide you through the process, but also expedite it.

Many potential claimants in personal injury claims are put off by their assumptions that the entire process will take too long to justify their time and energy to pursue. However, this assumption can be misplaced and depends on the facts of each case.

When considering pursuing a claim, it is essential to have reasonable expectations of how long the process will take. For example, it is unreasonable to assume that the process will take years for a simple case. On the other hand, it is equally absurd to expect a complicated, high-value case to be resolved and paid out within a few months.

The rule of thumb is that a complicated matter for a considerable amount can take from 6 months to a few years to conclude from start to finish. On the other hand, a simple, low payout claim can be settled and paid out within 3 to 6 months.

Let’s examine the process that needs to be followed to give you a better understanding of why settlement periods vary as much as they do.

What factors affect the length of a claim?

As outlined above, no two cases are the same, so it’s challenging to predict exactly how long your case will take. The case is dependant on many factors and can depend on:

  • The seriousness of your injuries and how long it is expected to take to recover.
  • The type of accident – e.g., medical negligence versus road accident
  • How much evidence is needed to compile to prove your case
  • Whether the other party denies liability 

Proving Fault

If the other party denies liability, the time to prove your claim will immediately take a lot longer. But, conversely, if the other party admits liability, the claims process will be much faster.

Often the other party will deny liability initially, in which case your lawyer will need to gather evidence to prove liability. This can be very time-consuming, especially if the case is complex and the claim is significant.

There are many sources of evidence, including obtaining police reports, medical reports, CCTV footage, opinions from medical experts, and medical costs. All of these take considerable time and can add to the processing period. 

Final assessment of extent and cost of your injuries

Suppose you have suffered injuries that may have long-term consequences or may take time to settle before a definitive diagnosis is made. In that case, your lawyer may well advise you to wait until a more accurate picture is available. 

This ensures that you claim for all costs, including future expenses that become apparent after a while.

Specialist medical reports might be required in some cases, especially if the injuries are severe or unusual. All of this can potentially add time to the claims process.

How long does it take to receive payment once the case is decided or agreed upon?

If your case is settled, payment is typically made within 2 weeks to a month and should take no longer than 30 days.

If your case was adjudicated, the court will prescribe a deadline by which time you should receive your compensation.

Do you receive the total amount of the award?

Your attorney will typically deposit the check, wait for it to clear, and then deduct any debts and lien amounts against the claim as well as the firm’s fees for handling the matter. 

The firm’s fee is generally agreed to by you and the attorney at the beginning.

The balance will be paid to you.

In summary

As you can see, there are several variables, and the issues can become quite complicated. Generally, it is a good idea to appoint an experienced and specialized attorney to represent you. This will ensure that your matter maintains momentum and that you get the maximum award possible in your circumstances.