Settlements offer a pivotal alternative to drawn-out court proceedings, providing a pathway to resolve many legal disputes without entering the courtroom. This approach helps avoid the lengthy lawsuits and prolonged, divisive battles often associated with litigation.
For anyone preparing for a legal case, understanding the duration and process of a settlement is essential. The timeline can differ significantly based on specific case details and the stages involved.
Though settlements span various legal areas, this article primarily focuses on employment law, with a particular emphasis on settlements in Florida. Our aim is to break down the complexities of this process, providing a comprehensive guide to the typical paths and timelines for settling a dispute.
Understanding Settlements in Florida
Settlements are utilized in many legal cases to compensate an individual or group of people harmed by another party. Typically, attorneys work out agreements to resolve legal issues without going to court.
Different factors can initiate a settlement. In employment law, companies typically do not want a prolonged legal case, facing numerous court and extensive legal fees. They also are often willing to provide compensation through a settlement when they are at fault because they do not want bad publicity for the company with a long court case.
When employees have been injured at work, discriminated against, wrongfully terminated, or had other employee rights violations, seeking a fair and just settlement with the help of an attorney is recommended.
What is a Settlement? (Alt text – Two people shaking hands and agreeing on a settlement)
A settlement is a legal contract. The contract is constructed to resolve a dispute between parties through an agreement by both (or all) parties.
When Court Involvement Becomes Necessary
Most of the time, settlements are agreed upon before going to court. In some cases, a resolution cannot be made with a settlement without going to court. Instances when a case may require going to court include a failure to agree on compensation, disputes over liability, complex legal issues, or if either party is unwilling to negotiate in good faith. If this happens and the court rules in the plaintiff’s favor, the plaintiff will eventually get a settlement.
Settlements typically include monetary compensation for the individual or group of people that were harmed. Sometimes, non-monetary aspects, such as policy changes, public apologies, etc., can be involved.
The Road to Settlement: A Timeline
It generally takes several months or more from the time the case is filed to settlement. Highly complex issues, particularly involving class action lawsuits, can take years.
When considering the question, “How long does a settlement take?” You must understand the timeline.
First, preparation, evidence gathering, and evaluation are conducted to determine the value of your case.
Next, send the initial demand letter. The demand letter will include:
- Details of your case, explaining what happened and how the employer is at fault. For example, details of how a person was wrongfully terminated due to age discrimination.
- Detail the type and extent of the damages you suffered. For example, lost wages and benefits and emotional damages.
- The total amount of compensation requested from your employer.
Depending on the case’s specifics, these two steps can take weeks to months or more.
After the demand, there is a designated period during which the other party can respond. Following responses, both parties may engage in negotiations to reach an agreement. If both parties agree on terms, the settlement is then finalized.
Important note: Settlement goals are typically decided upon before sending the initial demand letter, including the top amount you seek and the bottom dollar amount you are willing to accept. Additionally, any non-monetary goals, if relevant, should be included.
Timeline for Legal Settlements (Alt text – Gavel resting on a calendar next to a clock)
When digging into the answers of “how long does a settlement take,” multiple factors can affect the timeline from the beginning to the end of a case. Phases can speed up or slow down, which can occur in the case preparation and throughout the demand letter, counteroffer, and agreement phases. Complex cases take longer to develop and determine value. Employers may take a long time to respond to demand letters and counteroffers. People may be resistant to various types of communication. When cases end up in court, this delays the timeline and does not guarantee a settlement.
However, cases can speed up for several reasons too. Law firms with extensive experience in employment law have the education, resources, and skills to be more efficient than others who do not specialize in employee rights cases. Additionally, depending on the case and the evidence, some employers may want to settle quickly, forgoing an extensive counteroffer phase.
The Complexity of the Case
The complexities of a case can certainly influence the settlement duration. More straightforward ones, such as not paying minimum wage, often make for a reduced timeline as opposed to others. For example, discrimination and whistleblower cases often have many elements, varying types of evidence, and potentially multiple witnesses.
When attempting to gauge the timeline, it is necessary to consider the influence of case details, evidence, legalities, and other case-specific elements.
The Willingness of Parties to Settle
When you bring a claim against your employer, you are essentially dealing with people. People are making the decisions – and the readiness and willingness of all involved parties affect the settlement timeline.
When you have an assertive, effective, and respectful communicator and negotiator on your side, you are best prepared to deal with people. Bullying and over-aggressiveness do not bode well for efficient timelines. Employers may put the brakes on.
If the subject matter of the case can cause a lot of difficulty in the public eye for the employer, such as a sexual harassment or discrimination case, there may be a willingness to settle quickly, decreasing the settlement timeline.
Negotiations, agreements, and cooperation can all shape the timeline’s duration.
Involvement of Insurance Companies
Insurance companies can also play a role in the settlement process and affect the timeline. Most frequently, this is with personal injury cases. Many insurance companies are cautious with settlement amounts, aiming to reduce costs. An experienced negotiator helps you reach a final agreement as efficiently as possible.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Settlement Check?
After the final agreement is achieved, it is the post-settlement phase. These are the steps it takes leading up to the receipt of the settlement check.
From agreement to payout, your lawyer will ensure all procedures are followed properly. Typically, once an agreement is reached, it can take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks to process and deliver the check. This timeline can vary depending on factors such as the processing time of legal documents, the workload of the involved attorney, and the responsiveness of both parties.
The Steps After Settlement
Once the check is cut, it is typically sent directly to the lawyer’s office. They will take care of the documentation and legal requirements of the disbursal, which includes corresponding with the financial institution to verify the check’s validity and utilizing funds to pay medical liens, if relevant, and all processes in dealing with insurance companies regarding the disbursal. If other lien holders are involved in the case, this is also processed through the lawyer’s office.
Additionally, settlement checks include contingency fees for the legal team, typically delineated in the settlement agreed upon by all parties.
Once relevant procedures and all documentation are complete, including an outline of all settlement amounts and payouts, the check will be disbursed to you.
Potential Delays in Receiving Settlement Checks
Sometimes, delays may occur, including working with insurance companies for release forms, extra time to get the check cleared (particularly during holidays and weekends), and dealing with the liens mentioned above. Sometimes, getting final medical bills or other liens takes time, and lawyers may attempt to negotiate bills to help you get the highest possible amount out of the settlement check.
It is crucial to be patient during the settlement process. Your attorney will work hard to get through the process efficiently, but they also want you to obtain the highest amount possible.
Settlement Stories: Real-world Timelines
Your timeline will be reduced if employment disputes can be settled before litigation. From when an EEOC complaint is filed to the time it takes to go through the settlement process, it may take only months to get to a settlement instead of a year or more.
As mentioned above, certain employee rights cases will take longer than others, depending on the factors above. In comparison, certain actions can speed up timelines too.
Workplace Discrimination Settlement Timeframes
How long does a settlement take in workplace discrimination cases?
When workplace discrimination cases can get settled without going to court, it can take as little as 4-6 months. Attorneys will work hard to get a fair and just settlement, but if needed – will take it to the courts, which can take a year or more, but it is worth the time to pursue justice.
Employment Dispute Settlement Durations
The durations will range depending on the type of case, relevant evidence, complexity, and EEOC processes, among other factors. Generally speaking, if the case goes to court, it takes about a year or potentially several years. If a settlement can be met with the initial demand letter or with a counteroffer, it can take an average of 3-8 months.
Every settlement case has its unique timeline. While we’ve provided a general framework above, real-world scenarios can vary drastically. Some cases might be resolved swiftly within weeks, while others could drag on for years due to complexities or external factors.
Contacting a Florida Employment Lawyer for a Settlement Negotiation
Understanding the intricacies of the settlement process can empower individuals to navigate their cases with confidence. From preparation to negotiation, each phase is pivotal in ensuring justice and appropriate compensation.
From preparation and evidence gathering to sending a demand letter and navigating the nuances of the negotiations, each phase is a vital part of the process that affects the settlement timeline. And each phase is necessary for achieving the best possible outcome.
Whether you have been discriminated against or are facing other employee rights issues, get a free case evaluation with an attorney to get the justice you deserve. Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., has experience with employment settlement cases and has Florida lawyers across the state fighting hard for employee rights.
Please Note: At the time this article was written, the information contained within it was current based on the prevailing law at the time. Laws and precedents are subject to change, so this information may not be up to date. Always speak with a law firm regarding any legal situation to get the most current information available.