When you’re involved in a legal case, so much of the energy and focus lies on the start and the duration of the case that few people ever consider what actually happens when the case is over. In many instances, people usually tend to assume that justice will be served and everyone will go on their merry way.
However, while a major chunk of the case’s responsibilities will be lifted off of your shoulders once the case settles, you still have to pay attention to the following areas to push it towards the finish line:
Notification to Court
Once a settlement has been reached, your personal injury attorney is obligated to inform the court that the case has been resolved. Most courts require this to be done in writing, with all the attorneys for all the parties signing off on it. Sending out a proper court notification is necessary to move on with the closing process of the case, whether the case went to trial or not.
Crafting the Release
A release is probably the most crucial and important document that must be prepared. It is usually prepared by the attorney for the defendant, and it sets out all the terms and conditions of the settlement, including the names of the parties to the settlement, the amount of the settlement and the claims that are being settled. In a nutshell, a release usually says that the plaintiff is giving up any and all claims for damage related to an accident, in exchange for which the defendant agrees to pay the plaintiff a certain amount of money. A release is almost always signed by the plaintiff, but sometimes, depending on the claims involved, a defendant will also sign the release. A defendant will usually want a release so that a plaintiff cannot come back later on and claim that they are entitled to more money.
Preparation of a Closing Statement
Once a settlement has been reached and the money has been paid, the lawyer for the plaintiff usually prepares a Closing Statement, which shows the amount of the gross recovery and the net amount payable to the plaintiff, after deductions for attorneys fees, costs, outstanding medical bills, health insurance liens and any other expenses. No disbursements can be made to the plaintiff or anyone else without the plaintiff first having a chance to review and approve the Closing Statement. A signature from the plaintiff, showing their approval of the settlement and all disbursements, is usually required on the Closing Statement.
Approval of the Court
Some settlements require court approval. For example, if the claim is for an injury to a minor child, court approval of the settlement is usually required. Depending on the state, if the settlement amount is low, court approval may not be required. In some cases, the court will not approve a settlement until a person appointed by the court, usually referred to as a guardian ad litem, reviews the terms of the settlement and does a report to the court indicating that they believe the settlement is in the best interests of the minor child. This process can take quite a bit of time and significantly slow down the time within which the settlement funds can be disbursed. Court approval of settlements is also often required in wrongful death cases.
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