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.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).