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Giving Power Back to the Plaintiff (Guest Post)

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About the Author: John Vail, Esq. is the founder of John Vail Law, PLLC.  A renowned legal expert, he formerly served as the Senior Counsel and Associate Director for Constitutional Litigation for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (now the American Association for Justice).  Most recently, John was the Vice President and Senior Litigation Counsel of the Center for Constitutional Litigation.  For more information, please visit johnvaillaw.com.

 

How would you feel if the other side in a lawsuit got to pick your lawyer for you? You would never agree to their representation, right?

Now imagine that you’ve been offered a settlement, but the other side is going to tell you what you have to do with the money. That’s what occurs in many lawsuits involving money that badly injured people need to care for themselves.  With the introduction of H.R. 3699, the Structured Settlement Claimants Rights Act, Congress has proposed changing that practice by reining in big insurance companies that look out for themselves rather than for victims.

Here’s what happens now: a badly injured person wants to settle a case.  The other side offers what is called a structured settlement, an arrangement for the injured person to receive money over time rather than in a lump sum. For many injured claimants, themselves not professional money managers, a structured settlement can be a good option.  It provides the claimant with regular monthly income for their medical and financial expenses, which can be considerable.

Here’s the problem: the structured settlement industry is relatively small and unregulated. This provides the big insurance company on the other side with the ability to insist that the financial decisions be made by its people, not by yours.  This often results in steering the claimant towards financial products that benefit the defendant and disregard the best interests of the claimant.

 It’s as if they say: you don’t need to hire your lawyer; we’ll pick one for you.

H.R. 3699 would change that.  It would give you the option to choose your own structured settlement expert and would ensure that the advisors you depend on have your best interests in mind, not the interests of the big insurance company on the other side of your lawsuit.

I encourage all those involved with civil justice organizations, national associations for people with disabilities, and individual citizens who value our civil justice system to contact your Congressional representatives and ask them to support H.R. 3699.

You can track the progress of this bill at www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr3699.

Photo Credit

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5 Comments

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  1. John says:
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    This bill makes no sense. If I’m a trial lawyer and need my own structure broker, I just pick up the phone and bring him in like any other expert. There is nothing stopping me from doing so. Then my broker and the defense broker work it out. This bill is telling me that trial lawyers are too dumb or too afraid to use their own experts? Ridiculous.

  2. Mike Bryant says:
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    John, that isn’t what happens with cases. A number of the bigger insurance companies demand that the only structure that can be done is through their own company. It is often not the best rate. So it’s not a case of the plaintiff lawyer not knowing someone who is good to help, it is a case of the insurance company saying it is their way or no structure.
    So this bill goes a long way towards leveling the playing field for the client. It also will result in much more money for them in the long run.

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    @John – your comment is correct in theory, but @Mike is correct. Often times insurance companies handcuff a plaintiff who wisely decides to structure a case settlement to help insure his or her family’s future by refusing to allow that plaintiff to use his or her own broker, but instead compelling the use of the insurer’s broker. I have seen this happen way too many times in my practice and thus know it is a reality that must be fixed. This blog hits the nail on the head in the first sentence when it asks about allowing your adversary to choose your lawyer, which everyone knows would not work. As a lawyer who represents injured plaintiffs, I fully support this bill.

  4. anonymous says:
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    Was this article written by John Vail or John Bair? The “About the Author” indicates it was John Vail, but the photo credit shows John Bair.

  5. John Bair says:
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    @Anonymous- thank you for taking the time to visit our blog. This guest post was written by John Vail, as noted in the introduction. If you’d like to read more pieces by Mr. Vail or contact him personally, please visit his website at http://johnvaillaw.com.

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