Home » Questions to Ask Your Lawyer About Your Settlement

What I would like to discuss today is something that’s been on my mind because of some issues that have come up with a local attorney who has been taking advantage of his clients – basically stealing money from them.

Let’s go over what you need to understand at the time of the resolution or settlement of your case whether it’s by resolution by an arbitration or jury award or settlement. These resolutions are where you’ve agreed with the insurance company or the defendant on how much money you’re entitled to receive.

Probably 95 to 99 percent of all cases, whether it be a workers compensation case or a personal injury case, such as an automobile accident, are resolved by settlement.

There are not as many jury trials as one might think… not as many arbitrations in workers compensation cases as one might think… in light of the number of cases that are out there.

What Should Happen When Your Case Is Settled?
When your case is completely finished your lawyer tells you, hopefully, we’re resolving your case for x amount of dollars. But, then, what happens? What are your expectations? What can you expect to happen then?

I want you to understand that it’s okay to ask questions. I’m sure throughout your case you’ve called your lawyer and you’ve asked some questions. You may have asked him has he heard anything yet? You’ve asked him when’s my trial date? You’ve asked him what’s a deposition? You’ve probably asked questions all along the way. But, now that your nearing resolution, it’s time to keep asking questions.

My experience lately, with the number of people that are coming to me after being represented by a particular lawyer in St Clair County, is that people don’t ask the right questions when their case is resolved. So, let’s discuss that. When my office resolves the case, the money comes in and the check is made out to you, as my client, and it’s also made out to the other name on the check, my law office, Kirkpatrick Law Offices.

Then, that check having both our names on it, is deposited into my trust account not my regular operating account. As a lawyer I have to have two accounts: one for of the office money and one for the client’s money.

The Settlement Distribution Sheet
What you need to know is that client trust account is just for your money. When I distribute that money to you you will receive a settlement distribution sheet that will show you the amount of the settlement right at the top. Then you’ll it will show the attorney fee, the contingency fee, whether it was thirty-three percent of the recovery or twenty percent, depending on what the nature of the case was.

Then the sheet will show you your attorney’s costs. My costs are what an outside source charges me.

So, as a simple example is if I take your case and I pay fifty dollars to Dr. Jones to get your medical records, I pay that up front but I get that back at the end. That’s part of my risk in taking a case; if I lose, I lose that money that I’ve invested. You will see the costs.

Another thing that you will see on your distribution sheet is if your attorney has had to pay any medical liens. If I have to pay any medical liens you will see exactly on your attorney’s distribution sheet. You’ll see the amount of the medical bill and lien, whether your attorney has reduced it, and how much money they have reduced it to. “They” being the medical provider and you’ll see a list of those hospitals, doctors etc.

Another element that you’ll see is whether your attorney has had to pay back Medicare. Medicare has a super lien. We always have to pay back Medicare if they paid for any of your expenses that are related to your treatment we have to make sure that they’re paid because they will sure enough cause grief if we don’t. You’ll see that on there so you’ll know exactly what is taken out of your settlement and the bottom line will be the net proceeds to you.

That means when you walk out of here with your copy of the Settlement Distribution Sheet you should know whether all of your bills have been paid. You will know that medicare’s been taken care of and you will know how much you get in your pocket without further obligation.

Unfortunately, what’s happened lately with the particular lawyer in my area, is that he wasn’t telling people how much they settled their case for. He wasn’t telling them what his attorney fee was. He was doing things like taking out thousands of dollars from a person’s money. He claimed he was taking out an amount of money with the idea that he was going to pay the medical expenses, but then he didn’t pay those medical expenses.

Now people, years later, are finding out that while their lawyer set back maybe forty thousand dollars for bills, they’re just now getting bills from treatment with the doctor from something they thought was taken care of two three four five years prior.

People don’t understand that if they don’t ask questions they don’t know what they owe, what has been paid and what is theirs to keep. You want to know what the amount of the bills were in your personal injury case. You want to know who those funds were paid to. You want to make sure you at least understand if any of those bills are going to be remaining outstanding. You want to know exactly what bills your lawyer has agreed to pay from the proceeds of your settlement. You want to know exactly how much you’re going to get in your pocket. You definitely want to see a distribution sheet showing where your money went.

Unfortunately bad things happen. Certain lawyers sometimes don’t look out for their clients best interest. I’m not telling you this because this is a common problem. Most lawyers do exactly the same thing I do and they keep their clients informed. However, there are a few lawyers that don’t. And they try to take advantage of their clients that way. So, ask questions about your case. Make sure that at the end of your case you have an understanding what your settlement was, where the money went, from the settlement how much your lawyer got paid and how much you’ve gotten paid. And this is what the Settlement Distribution Sheet is designed to show you.

Ask the right questions so that nothing arises three four five years down the line and everything’s up front and taken care of. Thank you for your time. My name is Eric Kirkpatrick. Give me a call if I can help you out in any way. 618-239-6070 Thank you.