It is a very common practice for insurance carriers to negotiate catastrophic workers’ compensation claims using offers in the form of both upfront cash to the claimant and a structured settlement. At a minimum, any case involving a Medicare set aside will typically be funded with a structured settlement annuity. AIG, Berkshire Hathaway, and USAA not only have property and casualty companies which ensure the employers, but they also have their own in-house structured settlement programs. If they can get the claimant to agree to a structured settlement with their own company, they may see additional financial benefits at the expense of the claimant. This is why it is imperative for attorneys who represent injured workers to have their own settlement consultant to ensure that if any settlement offers are made in the form of a structured settlement, that the claimant will, in fact, get the largest payout available from the highest rated company/companies.
In a recent case, we were asked to attend a settlement conference for a paraplegic where AIG was the excess carrier. There was a $550k WCMSA and the claimant was receiving 12 hours a day of attendant care. Every offer made during the mediation contained a structured settlement payout for not only funding the WCMSA obligation but also for the attendant care for the lifetime of the claimant. The case ultimately resolved for $3.0 million, of which $1.25 million was used to fund a structured settlement. What is important to note is that Synergy was able to hold AIG’s feet to the fire regarding what companies to use for funding the structured settlements. We were able to put nearly $88k in additional dollars directly in the claimant’s pockets in the form of a cost savings to purchase those same structured settlements since the employer/carrier’s structure broker was only quoting AIG. Prior to mediation, we had priced out the entire annuity marketplace and knew that New York Life and Pacific Life had the best rates respectively, not AIG. We were able to leverage that information for the benefit of our clients.
There is a difference between a settlement consultant/planner and a structured settlement “broker”. A broker sells structured settlement annuities while a settlement consultation/planner is an expert who provides a “settlement plan”. A settlement consultant should have an arsenal of options for the claimant to consider as part of any settlement plan. A structured settlement is generally the cornerstone of any settlement plan for a catastrophic workers’ comp claim, but it cannot be the only component for consideration by the injured worker. A qualified expert should also have extensive knowledge in dealing with trusts, Medicare Set-Asides, MSP compliance as well as public benefit protection. Most importantly, they should have the experience in assisting both claimants and claimant’s attorneys on catastrophic workers’ compensation cases.
At Synergy, we frequently attend settlement conferences/mediations either in person or by phone at NO COST to the attorney or injured worker. Our expert settlement consultants can quarterback the settlement process as part of a holistic settlement team approach. This approach may include utilizing our certified Medicare set aside specialists, certified financial planners, nurse allocators, economists, subrogation analysts, or public benefits attorneys to provide direct support before, during and after the negotiations. Don’t rely upon the employer/carrier’s “structure specialist”. Those “specialists” are brokers and are there to protect the employer/carrier, not the claimant and the claimant’s attorney. The earlier Synergy gets involved in the settlement process, the better equipped you will be to recover maximum available dollars. Call us today to show you how we can help increase the value of the case, protect your firm/your client and assist in getting catastrophic claims to the finish line expeditiously when dealing with CMS or Medicare eligible claimant.