Yes, if there is a place for a notary to sign it, then you must sign the document in the presence of a notary. The easiest way to locate a notary is to go to your bank and inform the teller that you need to have a document notarized. It is a free service.
If you have a spouse and there is a place for your spouse to sign, then your spouse must sign the release in order to avoid any deficiencies with your paperwork. This is especially important if your spouse is listed on your retainer agreement that you signed with our firm and/or is listed on the complaint. In the event that you divorced from your spouse after your spouse signed the retainer agreement/was listed on the complaint, please contact our office for direction. If there is not a place for your spouse to sign the documents, then your spouse does not need to sign.
Yes, if there is a place for a notary to sign it, then it must be signed in the presence of a notary. The easiest way to locate a notary is to go to your bank and inform the teller that you need to have a document notarized. It is a free service.
We are required to submit the original documents to the settlement administrator. This means that even if we receive your electronic copy prior to a deadline, it will not actually be submitted until we receive the originals. While you can submit them to us electronically, it will not make the process move any faster.
It is extremely important that you provide our firm with information about any bankruptcy proceeding that is ongoing or that you have gone through in the past. Depending on the facts, it is possible that we will need to work with the bankruptcy trustee to take appropriate steps prior to disbursing any settlement funds to you. This is necessary under the law, and defense counsel will also require that such steps be taken. This can extend the timeline for disbursing funds, but it is nonetheless necessary.
Our firm performs an independent investigation to confirm if each claimant has gone through a bankruptcy at any point. It is therefore in your best interest to provide this information to us as soon as possible, so we can move through this process swiftly with your cooperation.
The gross settlement award is the total settlement value that you are being offered. The net amount is the amount you will receive after attorney fees, case expenses, court mandated assessments, lien resolution group fees, and any liens that you have been deducted.
Attorney’s Fees: This amount is a percentage of the gross settlement that is outlined in your Retainer Agreement with our firm.
Case Expenses: These are the costs/expenses associated with pursuing your specific case. These include, but are not limited to: fees for obtaining medical records, filing fees with the Court, mailing costs, etc.
Common Benefit Expenses/Court Ordered Assessments: There is a significant amount of work that is done on behalf of all plaintiffs in this litigation. For example, when a deposition of a corporate employee is taken, it is taken one time for the benefit of all plaintiffs. In order to account for the cost of this “common benefit” work, a small percentage is deducted from each and every settlement. This is ordered by the Court, and applies to each and every case.
Liens: This is explained in more detail below. We are obligated to resolve any healthcare liens that exist in your case. In order to do this we will work with a lien resolution group, who will assess a small fee that becomes an expense ultimately deducted from your settlement.
A lien is a claim on your settlement award from an insurance agency that is requesting payment in connection with services provided. Medicare and Medicaid are the most common liens, but private insurance companies can also submit a claim. By law, your insurance is entitled to assert such a lien to seek reimbursement for the amount it paid for medical care related to your claims. During the settlement process, we are required to confirm if such a lien exists, and if so to finalize it and render payment. In order to do this we will work with a lien resolution company who will audit any lien that is asserted to ensure only related claims are included. There will also be a negotiation process to reduce any lien amount to the fullest extent possible.
In order to disburse funds to you as soon as possible, this may occur in two payments. It is required by law to withhold a percentage of the gross award in order to satisfy any liens. This is known as a lien holdback. It is important to note that Wexler Wallace is not withholding this money, as we do not receive the remaining funds until the liens are satisfied. If you have any liens, they will be paid from this percentage and the rest of the funding will be released to you as soon as the liens are satisfied and the funds are wired to us. If you do not have any liens, you will still have to go through the process, but you will receive the entire holdback once we receive it.
When you receive a Settlement Statement, it may include “TBD” next to the lien amount. Until the lien resolution group uncovers any liens, we do not know what those amounts are going to be. They may be $0, but we will not know that until we receive a report from the lien resolution group. If you are waiting on answers to how much your liens are prior to returning your documents, you are just going to prolong the time you will be waiting to be paid by being slotted into a later payment group.
We encourage you to return the documentation rather than waiting for those amounts to be filled in because the lien resolution group will be working to lower any liens that you have anyway. This way, you will receive payment as soon as possible.
This is a legal requirement for every settlement award. You may know that you do not have any liens, but that must be proven before the funding will be released to us. Additionally, there may be a small claim that you have forgotten about that is uncovered in the process. We do not withhold this money, it is withheld even from Wexler Wallace until all liens are uncovered and satisfied. This process will likely be quicker if you do not have any liens, but we do not have control over how quickly it goes.
The lien resolutions are not done by our office, they are done by a company that specializes in negotiating with insurance companies. This is to your benefit. By using an outside source, they are able to negotiate with insurance companies to lower the amount that the insurance companies are asking to be reimbursed for. Unfortunately, it means that we cannot make them work any faster. We have frequent meetings with them and push to move things along as fast as possible, but they have thousands of cases and also must wait on information from many insurance companies. This can take time.
It can be as short as a month to as long as a year and a half. The average lien holdback turnaround time is between 4-6 months, but we have run into instances where it has dragged on much longer. If we encounter a situation when it should take longer than expected, we will work with you to determine the best course of action.
Similar to other parts of litigation, the settlement process can be very lengthy. When you receive the settlement documents, that means that an offer was made regarding the amount that you would receive; your return of the Release is an acceptance of this offer. But the logistics of disbursing the funds still have to take place, along with several other issues. Additionally, there are certain requirements that must be met prior to funding being released for anyone. Some of these requirements include:
- Meeting the settlement threshold, outlined in your letter.
- Running bankruptcy searches and submitting proper documentation of whether a client has gone through bankruptcy. If they have, this also includes contacting the trustee to determine next steps.
- Processing of the settlement documents by a neutral third party administrator.
- Beginning the lien resolution process by a neutral third party.
All of these things take time and it is important to remember that there is nothing that we can do to speed up the process as the majority of these factors are entirely outside of our control. We are as anxious as you are to receive the funding and deliver it to you, but we have no control over when funding will be released and we wait for updates just as you do.
The settlement threshold refers to the percentage of settlement documents that must be returned and submitted prior to funding being released. This tends to be the most time consuming process of settlement because it involves thousands of people cooperating and we have contact with only a few hundred of them. We are reliant on other firms to follow up with their clients to get the documents back. There is little we can do to speed up the process, other than to urge you and each of our clients to return documents in a timely manner.
If the threshold is not met, the funding will not be released. However, this has never been an issue because we work very hard to make sure everyone receives a fair and just offer. We spend months negotiating with defendants and we do not take an offer to our clients unless it is an offer that we would recommend taking. It is time consuming and frustrating to wait, but it will ultimately be worth it.
Unfortunately, we have no timeline as to when you will receive your first check until the threshold has been met. We can tell you that as soon as we have a list of people that are going to be offered a settlement, we immediately send their information to our lien resolution company in order to speed the process along and get you your full award as soon as possible. Additionally, we follow up with our clients regularly about missing releases and we put pressure on firms that we work with to do the same.
The deadlines are used to create payment waves. Whoever returns their paperwork by the first deadline will be in the first wave, whoever returns their paperwork by the second deadline will be in the second wave and so on and so forth. These deadlines also encourage the quick return of the paperwork to meet the threshold as quickly as possible.
Because there are thousands of people involved in a mass torts litigation, it is impossible for a defendant to pay out every claim at the same time without going bankrupt. And if the defendant files for bankruptcy, it will delay payment indefinitely. Payment waves are created to structure the release of funds in such a way that all of the plaintiffs will be awarded their settlements over a period of time. Usually the waves are a few months apart. So while you may be in a later payment wave, you will still be guaranteed your settlement award.