A reader (who is not a client) e-mailed me.  Her attorney has settled her case with the other lawyer in court five weeks ago.  She was about to testify in a trial and it was settled and reported that way to the Arbitrator.  She left the courthouse after agreeing to resolve everything.  Her work comp attorney told her that the defense law firm would prepare settlement contracts and send them out for her signature.  That process was to take around one week.
Well she’s still waiting and (understandably) panicking a bit.  She had left her attorney a couple of messages that weren’t returned.  She wanted to know if this was normal and if not, what should she do.
It’s not normal and I told her to keep bugging her lawyer.  There is no rule that says the defense attorney has to prepare the settlement contracts, although they usually do so they can bill their client and make some money.  But even if they went on vacation after the agreement was reached, they should have been done by now.
I also told her to ask her lawyer to motion the case for trial.  The defense law firm doesn’t want to go in front of the Arbitrator and say, “Yes I told you two months ago that we’d resolved this claim, but I’ve been too busy to prepare contracts.”
And if her attorney won’t return phone calls (I’m guessing he just has nothing to report and doesn’t want to deal with her, cowardly, but likely true) then she needs to go to his office.
This problem is worse than most because she was receiving benefits up until the court date where they settled.  I didn’t get in to if settling was even a good idea or not, but going five weeks without pay has been a hardship and her lawyer likely should ask that the settlement be increased by that missed time.  Quite honestly, we usually insist that benefits be paid up until the contract approval.
It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s something that needs to be resolved and can be.
UPDATE:  Since I drafted the post, my reader told me that her lawyer finally called her back and was going to see the other attorney in court the following week.  He said that if that didn’t work he’d file a trial motion.  She also added that his paralegal told him that only the defense attorney can draw up a settlement contact which is total b.s.



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By Michael Helfand