Planning for your Settlement is no Day at the Beach

Most families try to take a nice vacation every year.  The ultimate destination, attendees, mode of transportation, activities, dining options, length of stay and overall costs are determined through months (if not years) of research, inquiries with friends and families, budgeting, work vacation allowances and even consultations with a travel agent.  Let’s say that vacation costs $10,000.  This is a substantial investment for most families and it’s appropriate when making this financial commitment to do your due diligence.

Let’s add a few zeros and see if that changes the way one approaches such an important decision.  So, what if the amount at stake is $100,000? , $1,000,000 or even $10,000,000?  How much investigation should the family who is about to embark on planning for such a large investment proceed?  The sad truth is that many families spend less time pondering their settlement choices than they do planning their vacation; except that next year there will be another chance to plan another vacation.  There will rarely be another chance to plan for another settlement.

As a settlement planning attorney, I get the opportunity to work with people and their families who have suffered catastrophic injuries.  This work begins shortly after the injury and lasts well beyond cashing the settlement check.  Having consulted on over $100,000,000 in settlement cases, I bring a unique perspective on the right, and wrong, way to design these cases.

Let’s face it, several years can elapse from injury to settlement; and people have lots of questions.  They should be concerned about how much will their actual net settlement be?  What are the options for healthcare coverage now and in the future?  What about tax planning issues at the state and federal level?  Who is going to pay for an injured person’s long term care costs?  Is Medicaid the only answer? and if so, what sacrifices does the injured party make for future repayment to the government by accepting Medicaid?  Should the client accept a structured settlement?  Has anyone looked at the financials behind this transaction for the short and long term?  Who does the structured settlement broker at mediation actually represent? – the defendant insurance company who is being sued by the injured party?  Does the person need a Special Needs Trust?  If so, what types of trusts are there?  What if the person is over age 65 and can’t use a traditional special needs trust?  What other options are there?  Some related issues for Medicare coverage too:  How will the injured person enroll in Medicare?  Do they have to set aside funds for future Medicare covered procedures?  What happens if they don’t?  How does the person title their car, home, investments, etc. so that they are not reclaimed by the government after death?  What about family members who want to be caregivers?  The list goes on and on.

These are just a few of the very important decisions that affect how successful a personal injury case will be in the long run.  These are not issues that should suddenly be discussed at mediation or worse yet, AFTER mediation when the deal has been struck and certain options will no longer be available.

Here’s the good news:  We get involved in many cases shortly after the injured party has retained a plaintiff attorney and work with that attorney and the client to answer questions and educate the client along the way, usually for several months or years, so that when the time comes for that “permanent vacation”, the client is best prepared to make important lifetime decisions.  Oh yeah, most of our work is also done on a contingent fee so that if the case does not settle, the client owes us nothing for our services.

Julian Gray AssociatesThanks to our friends and contributors from Julian Gray Associates for their insight into saving your settlement.