Lawsuit Loans: How Do They Work?

A lawsuit loan is a cash advance against a future lawsuit judgment or settlement award.

By , Attorney

Perhaps you've seen the advertisements on television. A smartly dressed executive promises that you can have your money now if you can't wait until your personal injury suit settles. Lawsuit loan companies market mainly to plaintiffs in personal injury suits, like traffic accidents, slip and fall cases, and medical malpractice. Some lenders also lend money to heirs waiting for settlement of a deceased person's estate or to plaintiffs in employment or civil rights discrimination suits.

If any of these circumstances apply to you and you need money, you might be able to get a "lawsuit loan"—an advance against any future lawsuit settlement or award amount. These advances are known by many different names, including:

  • lawsuit loans
  • lawsuit cash advances
  • litigation financing
  • lawsuit funding, and
  • settlement funding.

For someone facing high medical bills or the loss of income after an accident, the thought of getting money from a lawsuit right away can be enticing. But is it in your best interest to borrow against a future settlement or judgment? Tread carefully before you jump at lawsuit funding. Borrowing against a future settlement or judgment can help you deal with short-term financial hurdles but might cost you a lot of money in the long run. Make sure you do your homework and understand the cost of getting a lawsuit loan.

How Lawsuit Lending Works

Lawsuit funding is a product offered to plaintiffs who expect to settle or win a judgment in a lawsuit. Here's how it works.

After you file a personal injury lawsuit, you apply for the loan with a lawsuit funding company. The company evaluates your case to determine how much you can expect to get if you win or negotiate a settlement. (The vast majority of personal injury cases are settled before trial.) The lender offers you a sum of money immediately. In exchange, you agree to pay the lender that sum of money (the principal) and a "funding fee" out of the proceeds of your settlement or judgment. Usually, you don't have to make any payments before you settle the case or get a judgment. The lender gets paid from the proceeds of the lawsuit judgment or settlement.

The Cost of Borrowing Against Your Future Lawsuit Proceeds

The "funding fee" can run between 2% to 4% per month. That might sound like a reasonable amount, but it equates to annual percentage rates of 27% to 60% or more. Considering that your lawsuit could take years to resolve, it's quite possible that you might pay back double or triple the money you borrow.

Repaying the Litigation Funding Lender

The loan is paid from the judgment or the settlement funds after other expenses are covered. When you reach a settlement with the defendant or when you obtain a judgment in court, certain expenses will be paid off the top. These expenses include:

  • the attorneys' fees (in personal injury cases, often one-third to one-half of any recovery you're awarded)
  • the expenses of litigation, like process server fees, copy costs, and court costs, and.
  • medical liens for services you got from doctors, hospitals, or other medical providers.

When all other expenses are paid, the lawsuit lender gets paid from the remainder.

What If You Lose the Case or Settle for Less Than What You Owe?

On the plus side for the consumer, if you lose your case, you don't have to repay the loan. This is a risk that the lender takes and one of the reasons the cost of a lawsuit loan is higher than other types of loans. Likewise, if you settle for less than expected, you will not have to pay more than the amount of your settlement.

If, after considering the expense and other downsides to lawsuit loans, you're still considering getting one, you can get tips on how to choose a reliable lawsuit funding company by reading How to Shop for a Lawsuit Loan. Because the lawsuit and settlement funding industry is largely unregulated, you must be extra vigilant if you're considering a lawsuit loan.

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