You had better get an explanation right away. I am certain that Illinois has a Bar Association or a disciplinary counsel that would be quite concerned with this conduct.
Demand a sit down with the attorney as a starting place.
In no way am I offering you legal advice, and in no way has my comment created an attorney-client relationship. You are not to rely upon my note above in any way, but insted need to sit down with counsel and share all relevant facts before receiving fully-informed legal advice. If you want to be completely sure of your rights, you must sit down with an experienced criminal defense attorney to be fully aware of your rights.
You should get a complete itemization of the settlement. It should tell you how the money was distributed. If you did not consent to the settlement, write to the insurance company or the person you are suing and let them know you did not agree to the settlement.
I agree with Attorney Deasey. You should have received detailed documentation to review and sign regarding the total amount of the settlement, medical bills and or liens paid, and expenses. The check you received should have been from the law firm, not a personal check. You don't mention signing a Release. A Release for the amount of the settlement signed by you would have been required by the insurance company before issuing the settlement check. If you did not sign any Release, that is another serious ethical issue. If you did sign a Release for the settlement amount, then you have agreed to the amount of the settlement as far as the insurance company is concerned, and the problem here involves your attorney accounting for what happened to the rest of the monies.
Merry Fountain is licensed to practice law in Indiana. She can be contacted at 1-888-242-HURT. This is not legal advice and it does not create an attorney/client relationship. It is legal education intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. If the question does not include important timeframes and facts the answer could change. Merry Fountain strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state.
Lawyers are not allowed to settle a claim without authority from the client. Most of us want confirmation in writing, though oral is sufficient.
Moreover, assuming there was an insurance company or a lawyer on the other side, there would have been a settlement agreement and release. If the defendant didn't have insurance or a lawyer, there may not have been one.
A personal check is unusual. A check would normally come from the lawyer's trust (IOLTA) account.
Given these unusual factors, I would demand a full accounting and explanation from the lawyer.
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In most cases you would need to sign a release or give him or her authority to sign the release for you, your attorney should provide you a copy of the release, the original check showing the settlement amount and a copy of the check he wrote to himself, this doesn't sound right, take care.
Legal disclaimer: The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of Massachusetts. Responses are based solely on Massachusetts law unless stated otherwise.
Was this settlement related to accident claim (auto/premises etc) or was it related to a different type of civil matter. Was this settlement made with an insurance company or was it perhaps with a private individual defendant or private company/corporation. Did you sign a Release? You should immediately contact a local attorney to review all the facts of this matter.
This is not intended to be legal advise or as legal representation. I am a California personal injury attorney . Be aware that every state has its own statute of limitations; and statutes & case laws that govern the handling of these matters.
Your attorney is not authorized to resolve a claim without your authority. However, the settlement he entered into may still be binding upon you. I agree with the other comments. Get an accounting and determine if you agree with the terms of the settlement. If you don't, I suggest you contact another lawyer and the Illinois Disciplinary Commission. Note that it is also improper for the attorney to place the settlement funds into his personal account.
All attorneys are required to receive consent from the client in order to settle a case. The attorney is also required to show you the settlement documents, especially since you'll need to sign a release for the insurance company. Further, if you do not agree with the settlement amount, did not give your consent to the settlement, and never signed a release, you may have grounds to invalidate the "settlement" that your attorney agreed to without your permission. You may also have grounds for a legal malpractice claim if you were damaged by the attorney's settlement compared to the real value of the case. However, I caution that this may be difficult.