Know the Risks and Advantages of a Structured Settlement Before You Settle Your Personal Injury Case

How does a structured settlement for personal injury differ from a settlement or award?

A settlement or judgment for a personal injury claim may be paid to the claimant by the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company in a single lump sum payment. The majority of settlements are paid in this way.

But in cases where the claimant (plaintiff) settles or is awarded a large sum of money, they may elect to receive all settlement funds in steady payments or a one-time partial disbursement of the settlement funds with recurring payments disbursed over a period of years or decades. This is called a structured settlement.

An initial partial disbursement of a structured settlement can and should be used for immediate expenses including, but not limited to medical bills, medical devices, convalescence, therapy, career training, special housing and transportation requirements or any other necessities unique to the injured person. The remainder of the partial disbursement may be invested or posted to a banking account to be used for living expenses or unforeseen future necessary expenditures. After the bills are met, the claimant is free to decide what to do with the remaining partial disbursement of funds.

Advantages to structuring your settlement over time

Some studies indicate that recipients of very large lump sum settlements or “windfall” awards frequently run out of the funds necessary to sustain their disabilities throughout the remainder of their lives. Sadly, this scenario may occur when the parent or guardian of an injured child lacks the experience of managing a large sum of money. One of the advantages to a structured settlement distributed over a period of years is the economic security and well-being of the disabled or partially disabled person.

There are also tax advantages to structuring your settlement. Although settlements and awards for physical injuries are generally tax exempt, interest and dividends earned on the investment of a single lump sum asset is taxable. Even if all of the funds received in a structured settlement are invested, the annual tax obligation would likely be lessened due to a reduced investment stream.

Will I make decisions regarding the distribution of my structured settlement?

A structured settlement is funded by way of an annuity purchased by defendant for the behalf of the claimant. When you agree to settle your lawsuit by way of annuity, your personal injury lawyer will facilitate a consultation with a qualified economic and financial analyst who will calculate your monthly or annual financial needs against mortality and inflationary tables. A qualified and trusted financial advisor will discuss your goals and the options available to you, i.e. the sums you wish to receive and the length of time over which you may extend your payments. You may choose to end disbursement of your funds at a designated age, terminate payments upon your death or continue with payments made to your heirs through the remaining life of the financial instrument. You may even elect to withhold regular payments until you reach a certain age to fund your retirement.

Why do insurance companies offer annuities to injured parties?

Because funds are invested in an annuity (a financial instrument that is expected to grow over time) the initial investment made by defendant or defendant’s insurance company is significantly less than the totality of the expected future income stream received by the claimant. Unless the claimant wishes to make a large purchase, such as a home, from a lesser settlement, say, for example, a settlement of $100,000., a structured settlement can be a win-win situation for both parties.

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Structured Settlement Cash and Working With a Broker

If you were a claimant in a lawsuit and were awarded monetary damages, you may have agreed to a structure settlement instead of one large lump sum payment. This payment provides regular installment payments to you over time. This type of financial agreement has many advantages and was beneficial to you at the time that it was set up. However, it is possible that circumstances changed, and you need a large lump sum payment to meet new financial obligations. It is possible to sell your settlement amount and the best way to do that is through a broker.

If you are currently receiving installment payments because you agreed to a settlement, and now you are in need of a greater sum of cash, you can sell your structured settlement and receive structured settlement cash. You can choose to sell the entire structured settlement for one lump sum minus the fee that will be charged to complete the deal by a structured settlement broker, or you can sell only a portion of the structured settlement. In that case, you will continue to receive installment payments for the monetary amount that remains part of the structured settlement. You will receive a lump sum payment for the part of the structured settlement that you sell.

When you get structured settlement cash, it is like getting an advance on the money that is owed to you. The broker charges a fee for his services that can range from 10% to 50% of the money you want advanced. However, even though you are receiving your money at a discounted rate, you now have the use of that money immediately.

Personal injury lawsuits often involve settlements for very large sums of cash. Cases involving medical malpractice and wrongful death can often have settlements that range in amount from six to seven figures. These large settlements can have major tax ramifications so it is beneficial to the claimant to receive these funds in installment payments over time. Structured settlement payments spread over time involve little or no tax at all. In addition, installment payments guarantee a steady flow of income on a regular basis. Many individuals find it easier to manage money in installments rather than receiving a large lump sum all at once.

Circumstances in your life can change, and you may find that the amount of money you receive on a regular basis from the structured settlement does not allow you to meet your obligations on larger bills such as the purchase of a new house or education expenses. If you receive structured settlement cash in a large lump sum, it will make it possible for you to meet these new financial obligations. In addition, you may notice that the installment payment amount is not keeping up with inflation, and you may decide that receiving cash now is better than receiving installment payments in the future.

If you decide that selling your settlement money is in your best interest, you need to find a reputable broker who can help you through the process. A broker acts as a consultant, provides an assessment, prepares calculations and plays an active role during negotiations to sell the structured settlement. The information that a good broker provides during negotiations helps both sides reach an equitable agreement.

To help the claimant, the broker prepares a financial analysis and then determines the present value cost of the settlement. He or She provides expert support and information in calculations involving Medicaid and SSI as well as issues involving income tax. Because a great deal of financial expertise is required, apart from the brokers help your accountant or bank would be a good source for a recommendation.

As you work with a structured settlement broker, you should find out what the total cost of selling the settlement payment will be and how long it will take to sell the same. It is important for you to have multiple deals to choose from so make sure your broker can provide details about multiple opportunities. This will help insure that you are getting the best deal possible. Throughout this selling process, it is vitally important that the channels of communication between you and your broker be open. You should be able to communicate with your broker easily and often, if necessary.

You should retain the services of a qualified broker who is registered with the United States Department of Justice. These settlements are set up by the courts and each state has its own laws. In addition, there are federal guidelines that must be followed under the tax code. You can receive structured settlement cash when you sell your structured settlement, but the process requires court approval. Complicated transactions like selling a structured settlement should always be reviewed by an attorney who will represent your best interests.

It is important to research the broker’s qualifications and experience. The broker you choose should be registered with the United States Department of Justice and be affiliated with at least one insurance company. The Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice actually publishes a “List of Annuity Brokers Who Meet Minimum Qualifications for Providing Annuity Brokerage Services in Connection with these settlements. The list for any specified year is in effect until it is replaced by another update. This list of brokers is alphabetical by their last name and provides the city and state where they are located.

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Getting Quick Cash for Your Structured Settlement

Just because you received a structured settlement for your lawsuit, it doesn’t mean you have to wait for years to get the money. There are many settlement purchasing companies that will give you instant cash for your structured settlement. These companies can pay cash for the entire structured settlement or purchase your remaining periodic settlement payments. You can spend this lump-sum payment on anything-a house, college tuition, business investments or debts.

What Is a Structured Settlement?

A structured settlement, which typically results from a personal injury lawsuit, is an agreement where you consent to accept payments over time in exchange for the release of liability for your claim. A structured settlement can provide payments in almost any manner you choose. For example, the settlement may be paid in annual installments over a number of years or in periodic payouts every few years.

These payments are generally awarded through the purchase of one or more annuities from a life insurance company. Structured settlements can also be used with lottery winnings, contest prize money and other situations with substantial cash awards.

Structured Settlements Not Always the Best Fit

In theory, structured settlements are designed to provide long-term financial security to injury victims through tax-free payments. And for most people, the agreed-upon structured payment plan initially makes sense. However, a financial emergency, a business opportunity, an unforeseen medical expense, or a house purchase can put a strain on the injured party’s finances.

And the structured nature of the settlement may become too restrictive to cover major financial purchases. Also, a structured settlement may not be the best option for investing. There are many other investment vehicles that can generate greater long-term return than the annuities used in structured settlements. Therefore, some people may be better off getting cash for their structured settlement and then building their own investment portfolio.

How Getting Cash for a Structured Settlement Works

If you receive an award from your injury case, an attorney or financial advisor will likely recommend setting up periodic installment payments instead of giving you a lump sum of cash up front for your structured settlement. Then, an independent third party will purchase an annuity that will provide you with tax-free periodic payments.

Companies that offer cash for structured settlements have a variety of programs that can allow you to access any portion of your annuity. For example, you may want to sell as little as four year’s worth of payments or receive a lump-sum payment while still enjoying some portion of your monthly payment. Or you can sell your settlement for a large payment that is five or six years in the future. You can also customize an arrangement to get cash for a structured settlement based on your unique needs.

Here’s an example of how obtaining cash for a structured settlement works: Let’s say you were in an accident five years ago. The accident caused you to be hospitalized for several months and undergo nearly a year’s worth of physical therapy. So you hired an attorney and sued the responsible individual-or, rather, the person’s insurance company. Ultimately, your attorney advises you that you’ll be awarded a substantial sum of money.

After several months or years of negotiation, you receive a sizable settlement. However, the cash you get upfront is only enough to cover the medical expenses. The rest of your compensation is scheduled to be paid out in regular installments through an annuity over the next 15 to 30 years. Rather than being restricted to monthly or annual payments, you contact a settlement purchaser to secure immediate cash for your structured settlement. You’re then able to use the cash to enhance your current cash flow-rather than waiting on periodic future payments.

Legal Issues of Receiving Cash for a Structured Settlement

If you’re contemplating getting cash for your structured settlement, it’s important to contact a financial advisor. Most states have regulations that limit the sale of structured settlements, so you’ll need court approval to receive cash for your structured settlement. Federal restrictions also may affect the sale of structured settlements to a third-party individual. And some insurance companies won’t transfer annuities to third parties.

Also, before you attempt to obtain cash for a structured settlement, be sure to do your homework. Check out multiple companies to see which one can offer you the most cash for your structured settlement. You also want to examine their integrity, reputation and track record. This will help ensure you have the most positive experience obtaining cash for your structured settlement.

Receiving cash for a structured settlement is an ideal option if you need a lump sum of money to meet your immediate needs.

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