Show me the money! Resolving a settlement 5

I’ve made my move to get the long-delayed settlement check in my personal injury case.

What case is that? Well, the case that originated on January 25, 2008, when I broke my foot on a badly maintained sidewalk. The case that was filed on August 21, 2008. The case for which I signed a settlement agreement on November 3, 2011, for $30,000 total. The case for which I had to file a grievance against my lawyers in the Disciplinary Committee of the New York State Courts.

But if you’ve been reading here on Sideline my little opus, called “Problems with your lawyer,” you know all that. So you and I are both in the same position right now, wondering where the hell is my settlement check?

It took me a week or so to figure out how to get it from Dinkes & Schwitzer, the lawyers in question. Yesterday, I sent a certified letter to William Schwitzer offering a deal. (Given how many certified letters at $5.75 a pop I’ve personally paid for, I should be charging  Dinkes & Schwitzer costs and disbursements.)

I offered Schwitzer two choices.

Choice one. Having carefully read through and logged in what D&S sent me as my entire file — which it is not — I’ve figured out what they did and did not do on my behalf. So I can retain the ethics lawyer I spoke to a few months ago and ask him to review and investigate the case, and then take whatever action is to my advantage.

Choice two. Simple. Back in February, I had gone through the draft Closing Statement I had insisted that D&S send me. There were a number of costs and disbursements about which I was mystified. But I had been assured my file contained invoices for every charge. So when I finally got my file a few weeks ago, I particularly sought out these invoices to see what justification D&S had for these costs. Surprise. Very few of these invoices were included.

As I think about all this, I realize that not many plaintiffs would take a look at what a lawyer states are the costs and disbursements he is charging to your case. In fact, you probably won’t even know until after you get your settlement check, along with your lawyer’s closing statement.

You would assume, wouldn’t you, that all these charges are legitimate.

Fortunately for me and for you — but unfortunately, perhaps, for D&S — when I worked for lawyers, one of my jobs was calculating and distributing these expenses when a case settled. So I know what charges are authentic and necessary. I also know what charges are not.

Ergo, my second choice to Schwitzer began with an analysis of all the costs and disbursements I rejected, and a list of the ones I would accept. Then I re-calculated what this would mean in terms of how much D&S would get, and how much my check should be.

The difference? $1519.45 more to me. Not a lot of money, but justified.

D&S had included in my file an outrageously late letter (July 20, 2012) they’d send to the lawyers for the defendants, enclosing all the settlement papers I had signed (in November 2011!) and demanding that the check be sent to D&S in 21 days.

I took out my calendar, counted 21 business days, and told Schwitzer that I expected my check by Friday, August 24 and if I didn’t receive it by then, I’d retain a lawyer.

What do you think will happen? I am sanguine.

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