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How long can attorney keep your settlement check?

Trenton, NJ |

My sister is in a real bind right now. She accepted a settlement for an auto accident and her attorney told her she had to sign the check over to him to so that he could pay the medical bills and deduct his fee. He told her he would then issue her a check once the money had cleared his bank and that would be a maximum of 10 days. That was three weeks ago and she has not heard from him. She called and asked if her check was available for pick up or if it had been mailed out. His assistant told her that they have not yet prepared a check for her because they had not spoken to one of the doctor's offices yet and they do not know when they will be able to give her the check. However, the attorney already has of all of the bills and verified that before she agreed to the settlement. He also told her the exact amount she would be getting. Because she expected to receive that payment she went ahead an made an offer on a house. However if she does not go through with the deal she will lose thousands of dollars. (part of the agreement) She already used all of the money she has available for the house purchase, but still needs to pay for the inspection and the closing costs. She asked that the attorney call her back but he has not. How long can the attorney keep her money? If it matters we are in New Jersey and this was a settlement for an auto accident.

Attorney Answers 1


  1. If her share of the settlement check is enough to make a down payment for a house, the amount must be significant.

    The attorney cannot write a check to the client until the bank clears the check. For a large check, it may take weeks to clear the bank. Your sister should keep this in mind when she deposits her check. She may want to consider getting a wire transfer or some other quicker way of transferring money from the attorney.

    If the attorney writes your sister a check and for some reason the funds from the settlement check are not available, the attorney likely will face discipline from agency that regulates attorney for letting his trust fund account be out of balance.