How to Handle a Delay Receiving Your Personal Injury Settlement Check

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At this point, let's assume you've reached an agreement with the adjuster to settle your personal injury claim. You sent a confirmation letter, and now you're just waiting to receive the check. It's been a couple of weeks and you're beginning to wonder why the check hasn't arrived.

Your check should arrive within a reasonable amount of time. If it doesn't, there are actions you can take to speed up the process.

Reasons for Delay

There may be a legitimate explanation for why you still haven't received your settlement check. Here are some common reasons for delays:

  • Your claims adjuster may have taken time off for vacation or illness just after settling your claim, and forgot to send your paperwork to her supervisor for final approval.

  • Your claim was approved by the supervisor and sent off to the payment department, but they've been backed up as a result of a natural disaster or other event in another part of the country.

  • Your adjuster's supervisor has been out of the office due to vacation or illness, and therefore hasn't been able to sign off on your claim.

  • There's an internal technical issue involving your settlement agreement, which must first be resolved before the check can be processed and mailed to you.

  • The insurance company's home office may be located a great distance from you, so delivery simply takes longer.

Reasonable Delays and Follow-up

A two week delay is not uncommon, and even three weeks might be acceptable, especially if there's a legitimate reason. There have been cases where a settlement agreement was reached, and the file was subsequently misplaced or overlooked. If it takes longer than three weeks to receive your settlement check, however, that starts to border on an unreasonable delay.

Following up with the adjuster

If the claims adjuster said you would receive the paperwork and/or check within a week or so, then calling after a week wouldn't be unreasonable. If she told you it would be a couple of weeks, it's advisable to wait at least two weeks before calling.

If you haven't received your check within three weeks, call the adjuster. She'll probably tell you she sent your paperwork on to her supervisor, and that your claim is still being processed. If so, ask how much longer it will be before you receive your check. Pin the adjuster down. Note the date and time you called, and what the adjuster told you.

Wait a few days and call again. Unless there's a legitimate reason why your settlement check is delayed, calling the adjuster every couple of days after three weeks has passed is reasonable.

Note the date and time of each call. Also note what you said and the adjuster's response. If you can only get the adjuster's voicemail, leave a message stating you still haven't received the check you should already have.

Going up the chain of command

You can ask to speak with the adjuster's supervisor. The supervisor should be able to give you a legitimate reason for the delay, and an approximate date when you'll receive the check.

If there's a problem, the supervisor should take whatever action is necessary to make sure you receive your check promptly. After three weeks have passed, tell the adjuster and her supervisor you would like the check sent via overnight or express delivery. If the insurance company knows the delay was their fault, they should agree.

If three weeks have passed and they haven't given any legitimate reason for your check's delay, you can file a written complaint with your state insurance board.

But before you do, call and let the adjuster know you're going to file a complaint unless you receive your check within the next week. Each time you call, note the date and time, and write a detailed summary of the conversation, especially the reasons given for the continued delay.

Filing a Complaint

If thirty days have passed and you still haven't received your settlement check, contact your state insurance board. States refer to their insurance boards by different names. Whatever the name, these governmental bodies all serve similar functions. They oversee the state regulations which govern all insurance companies doing business in their state.

Most of these state insurance bodies have enforcement power. That means they can levy fines and take other punitive action against insurance companies who violate state regulations. Before you contact the insurance board, have all your paperwork in order, especially the notes of your post-settlement discussions with the insurance company.

Once you file your complaint, an insurance investigator will be assigned to your case. The investigator will contact the insurance company and demand an explanation for the delay in your receiving the check. Contact from a state insurance investigator is often all that's needed for your check to be delivered promptly.

A state insurance board's intervention will not change the amount of your settlement check. You may think it's fair for the insurance company to have to pay you an additional amount to compensate for the frustration and additional work you had to do. Unfortunately, state regulatory bodies don't have that kind of power.

Watch Out for Bad Faith Practices

If you've come to an agreement, yet the insurance company simply refuses to send your check, with no legitimate reason for the refusal, you may have grounds for a bad faith lawsuit against the company. To pursue a bad faith case, you'll need an attorney.

A successful bad faith lawsuit against an insurance company can result in thousands of dollars in punitive damages, well beyond the amount of the original personal injury settlement agreement.

Although you can file a lawsuit without first trying other options, you should go through your state insurance board's complaint process before you file suit. That shows a jury that you took all reasonable action to secure your settlement check before resorting to litigation. You must act in good faith at all times, even if the insurance company doesn't.

You can contact an attorney at any time to discuss your options. Most personal injury attorneys don't charge for an initial consultation. That way, you'll know where you stand.

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