Structured settlements are financial agreements allowing compensation to be paid through an annuity in regularly scheduled payments, for either a fixed period of time or for the life of the claimant. Since it is suitable for individual plaintiffs, the structured settlement may also include an up front payment to cover any contingency.
Structured settlement payments are normally funded by annuities. These annuities are established to protect recipients of legal awards, insurance settlements, and lottery winnings. A great percentage of structured settlements are prearranged to provide for long term care and living expenses of plaintiffs who have been injured and are unable to work.
Structured settlements have not always been accessible. The Periodic Payment Settlement Act of 1982 was enacted to make large awards more agreeable to all parties and protect claimants. It also affords the insurance company and the plaintiff certain tax advantages.
Some situations are well suited for a structured settlement. For example: Cases that involve catastrophic injuries Wrongful death lawsuits that include replacing the lost income of the deceased Disabilities, either permanent or those requiring extensive recovery time Workers Compensation cases Gambling and lottery winnings
Many people choose a structured settlement over a lump sum payment, and courts often award them in civil actions where there are long term living and health care expenses. The anticipated need of cash at some future date is taken into account when setting up a structured settlement agreement.
Structured settlements can be established in a number of ways, according to the needs of the damaged party. The most basic structured settlements provide regular periodic payments for the life of the agreement; for example, a fixed payment every month for 10 years. Structured settlements do not pay interest, so anticipated gains in the underlying annuity are factored into the amount of the periodic payments and are non-taxable.
Claimants choose structured settlement agreements over lump sum awards for a number of reasons. The idea of guaranteed regular payments offers a feeling of security for many people who have been injured and are unable to earn a steady income. Instead of having to worry about how to invest a large cash award, the details are handled by the attorneys and the insurance company.
An important benefit of a structured settlement agreement is that it is tax free. The tax consequences of receiving a lump sum of cash can be staggering, turning what seemed like a fortune into an amount that may not meet future living expenses. A structured settlement relieves the claimant of the responsibility of planning a tax shelter for their award.
Because of the many benefits structured settlements offer both plaintiffs and defendants, the case can often be settled out of court, saving both parties a great deal of expense. Since the agreement is beneficial to both parties, the process is usually completed quickly, and there is no time lost to a prolonged battle in court.
There are some cases for which structured settlements are not suitable. An award for a minor injury sustained in an accident would probably not warrant the use of a structured settlement. In situations where extended hospitalization or long term treatment is not necessary, a lump sum award may be sufficient to provide for the needs of the damaged party.
Once a structured settlement agreement is enacted, the terms are fixed, and there is no allowance made for unanticipated circumstances. This is one reason many people choose to sell their structured settlement payments. Life situations change, and people may decide to buy a different home, start a business, or return to school and train for a new career. A lump sum of cash offers greater flexibility and more control over the money than a structured settlement.
Perhaps the most persuasive argument for selling structured settlement payments is that over time, inflation can severely erode the value of the periodic payments. A dollar today is worth more than the same dollar in the future. A lump sum of cash properly invested today could surpass the future value of a structured settlement.
When selling your structured settlement payments, you can choose to cash in only a portion of your future payments. This option offers immediate cash, while preserving some of the long term security of a structured settlement. If you decide to cash in a structured settlement, sell only the portion of your future payments necessary to meet your financial need.
Finally, you should carefully choose a structured settlement buyer that has been in business for at least several years. Check out potential buyers with the Better Business Bureau, and do some research to determine if past customers have been pleased with the company's services. Doing the research now will insure that you get the most cash for your structured settlement.
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