People across the U.S. may receive settlement checks from insurance companies to provide compensation for damages or losses from specific events. These events may include car accidents or personal injury settlements. In the example of a car accident, there will often be a combination of damage to personal property and physical injuries. Since an insurance settlement check can be very large, you'll need to know the procedures for cashing it.
Insurance Settlement Basics
Settlement money is issued via a settlement check after an insurance claim is approved or after all legal fees have been paid. It is very similar to a personal check in most ways. The settlement amount may yield a check for a large amount or multiple checks.
A settlement check might be issued directly to a claimant from an insurance company, or it can be paid from an escrow account via a law firm. Forbes reports that the average settlement amount for car accidents is $20,235 for personal injury settlements and $4,711 for property damage settlements in 2020.
Most settlement checks are payable to the insured claimant and any third party involved in the case, such as a vehicle passenger or an auto shop and other service providers. How this is handled will depend on the policy, claim details, insurance company and the state where the claim is filed.
Access to Insurance Settlement Money
The simplest way to access settlement money from a large check is to deposit the check into a bank account, such as a savings account or checking account. This can be done from an ATM at many banks and credit unions. Not every person has ready access to a bank account, or a bank deposit may simply not be an option. This leaves the matter of cashing a settlement check.
Keep in mind that a bank is unlikely to cash a check for an account that exceeds funds availability. Large check deposits can take up to a week or seven business days. A large amount deposit is one that totals $10,000 or more for a cash transaction.
Financial institutions are required to record all transactions over $10,000 per the Bank Secrecy Act to prevent fraud and money laundering.
Insurance Settlement Checks
The parties to a check are the person writing the check, also known as the drawer; the bank on which the check is drawn, called the drawee; and the payee, which is the person to whom the check is made out, typically the claimant.
On the front of a settlement check, usually under the numeric dollar amount, you will see the name of the drawee bank. Some insurance checks feature the names of two banks: a drawee bank and a bank through which the check is payable.
In the case of a settlement check, the drawer is the insurance company, while the drawee is the bank where the insurance company keeps its money for payouts. The person who is entitled to the settlement funds is the payee.
Often, settlement checks issued by insurance companies are returned unpaid because the issuers require endorsements to match the payee line.
Omitting a middle initial or suffix or abbreviating a name could cause the drawee bank to reject the item for improper endorsement. If you have a settlement check made payable to you and a third party, both of you must endorse it, and one of you can deposit it in an account if that is an option.
Financial Institutions and Settlement Checks
If negotiating your check involves just one bank, look the bank up online and locate a nearby branch. A photo ID such as a driver’s license will be necessary to cash a check. Cashing a high dollar amount check may require multiple forms of ID.
If your check names two banks, call the drawee bank. Explain your situation to the bank representative. Tell the representative you have a $30,000 settlement check that you need to cash. Ask when you can cash it and what information you will need to provide to do so.
The bank may refuse to cash the check because federal laws do not require banks to negotiate checks for non-customers. Further, banks do not keep an excess amount of cash on hand.
If the bank teller agrees to cash the item, they will probably require you to wait two or three days for the bank to make a special cash shipment order.
Another option, according to Experian, is to use an easily obtainable prepaid bank account that can accept direct or check deposits. While many might consider a check cashing store, the amount of cash that can be issued is often capped at limits more aligned with weekly or bi-weekly wages far lower than $30,000.
- Your bank will not cash a check that exceeds your average balance because the drawee could return the check unpaid at a later date, in which case the bank would incur a loss. If you typically have in excess of $30,000 in your account, the bank might let you cash the item, because it could recoup the money from your account if the drawee bank returns the item unpaid.
- Very often settlement checks issued by insurance companies are returned unpaid because the issuers require endorsements to match the payee line. Omitting a middle initial or suffix or abbreviating a name could cause the drawee bank to reject the item for improper endorsement.
- If you have a settlement check made payable to you and a third party, both of you must endorse it, and one of you can deposit it in an account.
- If you leave a bank with $30,000 in cash and are robbed, the bank will not reimburse you for your loss. It is wiser to exchange a large dollar check for a certified check, which your bank will deposit without a hold.