For small to medium-sized settlements reaching approximately $150,000 or less, a lump sum payment is recommended; however, any settlement amount exceeding $150,000 should be paid out via a structured settlement. Your personal injury attorney is not only responsible for helping you build a strong case, but also for ensuring the legal paperwork of the structured settlement includes protective mechanisms that protect your best interests.
Making Sure Your Money Keeps Up with Inflation
Over time, prices for everything, from a can of soda to a slice of pizza, tend to rise. A dollar today cannot buy as many things as a dollar ten years from now. In fact, $2000 in 1950 would be equivalent to $19,899.32 in 2015. Just because your settlement seems fair at the moment, the settlement does not have the same worth now than in the future.
If the payment plan and structure for your structured settlement will be spread out and paid over a few decades, just keep in mind the value of money will continue to increase and your money's spending power will decrease.
To protect your money from inflation, most personal injury attorneys recommend including provisions for inflation protection. The guaranteed structured settlement you receive will increase every year to counterbalance the negative effects of inflation. You can either opt for the guaranteed structured settlement to increase by a set amount or percentage or to be calculated each year based on annual U.S. inflation rates. Some states have a cap on the amount of increase possible during high inflation periods.
As deflation is a possibility as well, your attorney may specify whether the guaranteed structured settlement may also decrease. Most of the time, your payments will not be negatively affected by deflation.
Protecting Your Next of Kin
Other than having to protect your settlement from the negative effects of inflation, your personal injury attorney may also consider whether the structured settlement will go towards household expenses. If your next of kin is relying on the payments to make ends meet or if you have a family to take care of, most personal injury attorneys will include a provision for estate protection.
Estate protection basically means the structured settlement is guaranteed to pay out a specified minimum amount for a set period of time. The structured settlement will be paid whether you are alive or not. The next of kin or heirs you have specified to be the beneficiaries will receive the structured settlement payments tax-free.
Planning for Unexpected Worsening of Medical Conditions
Your injuries and medical conditions may make a turn for the worst unexpectedly, and you don't want to be caught off guard. Special provisions in the structured settlement may include providing more income if your situation worsens. This provision generally involves the impairment rating. Basically, your current impairment rating for each body part will be specified in the structured settlement. Depending on the level of worsening experienced, the structured settlement will pay out more income to offset the additional expenses incurred.
This provision does not specify whether your life is shortened, but merely whether your medical conditions worsen. If you are able to outlive your prognosis, you will still continue to receive payments from your structured settlement tax-free.
A structured settlement can help you spend your settlement wisely and is highly recommended by many personal injury attorneys, especially since the settlement may sit in a savings account accumulating interest tax-free. If you are interested in opting for a structured settlement rather than lump sum payments, speak with a personal injury attorney to determine the type of provisions and inclusions in the settlement that can protect your best interests.