Who’s Making Money Off My Settlement?
There are certainly a lot of people involved in the settlement. Some are there to make money, some are there to help.
Who Shows Up to the Settlement Table, and What Are Their Roles?
- Family, including the appointed Guardian or caregiver to the injured party.
- Legal counsel representing plaintiff and defense.
- Claims Adjuster
- Guardian Ad Litem, if appointed by the Court.
- Probate Court, Judge, if Court Approval of settlement required.
- Settlement Consultant
- Accountant or CPA (taxes will need to be considered).
Who Is Making Money Off This Process, and Is Their Fee Worth the Value They Bring?
- Family – It may surprise you that family is on the list, but it’s definitely something to consider. In addition to the appointed guardian or caregiver to the injured party, family members can also be compensated in certain states as a caregiver or as a Trustee to a trust. In addition, it’s important to note that in some cases, family members may view your settlement as a windfall for themselves as well. In those cases, caution is necessary to make sure that financial matters and family matters are handled with care.
- Legal counsel – This can include both sides of the case: plaintiff and defense. A plaintiff attorney is usually retained on a contingency basis and receives between 30%-40% of the settlement proceeds as the attorney fee. The defense attorney is usually hired either on an hourly basis or via a retainer paid by the insurance company.
- Claims Adjuster – Claims adjusters are paid on a salary and are entrusted to settle cases on the insurance company’s behalf. Their duty is to keep the best interests of the insurance company in mind as they work toward settlement, but these days they usually use formulas and specialized software to assign value to pain/suffering claims.
- Guardian Ad Litem – A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is a guardian that a court appoints to watch after someone during a case because the plaintiff is not deemed capable of taking care of himself. This is typically done in the case of a minor or when a plaintiff is legally incompetent. The GAL’s job is to act as the eyes and ears of the court, reporting observations and interviews to the judge. The GAL normally does not take sides and should serve as a neutral party to protect the rights of the plaintiff. In most cases, GAL’s get paid from the ward’s estate.
- Probate Court/Judge – If court approval of the settlement is required, a probate judge will be assigned. These judges have very broad discretion and can make sweeping decisions based on their own experiences, observations, and the law. There are rarely juries involved in probate proceedings, so the judge is even more crucial than in other proceedings. The court’s primary concern is making sure that the ward’s estate is protected, and thus, judges can be quite paternalistic as it relates to the ward’s interests.
- Settlement Consultant – Having a settlement consultant brought into a case can be a great resource to both sides of the case. In many cases, a settlement consultant may represent the defense, and another settlement consultant may represent the plaintiff, thus, it’s possible to have 2 settlement consultants on a case. The role of the settlement consultant is to provide settlement proposals based on their clients’ needs. In the case of the plaintiff, the settlement consultant will assess the injury and will create proposals that offer income replacement, payment of future medical bills, an analysis of government benefits, and other future financial projections that allow the settlement money to work for the injured party into the future. A settlement consultant is compensated for the solution they provide and is paid by the company that offers the solution. A settlement consultant’s compensation does not come from the injured party, the attorneys, or the insurance company. As such, his/her services are free to you.
- Accountant or CPA – If part or all of the settlement is taxable, it’s likely that a financial advisor will be consulted as well. These advisors are typically paid on an hourly basis by the plaintiff. In some cases, a fee can be negotiated, or a financial advisor might consider a percentage of the settlement as compensation.
Read our blog on best questions to ask at the settlement table here: Questions to Ask When Bringing a Professional to the Settlement Table
How Can Professional Value Be Assessed?
The professional’s ability to create a win-win and help overcome obstacles is a huge value. Understanding all sides of the process can improve communication and provide additional options available. It’s noteworthy to know that the injured party does have a say in those who are involved. This can include having a Ringler Settlement Consultant as part of the process.
If you’d like to find a consultant in your area to assist, you can begin searching here: Find a Structured Settlement Consultant Near Me
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