While working with hundreds of plaintiffs and attorneys over the past few decades, we at Milestone have heard countless stories about unexpected financial issues that led to unnecessary complications during litigation. By getting to the root of these problems, however, attorneys can avoid being blindsided. Below are some actions for mitigating common issues throughout the course of litigation.
1: Know Your Client’s Finances
Great attorneys know their clients, but they don’t necessarily know them down to the smallest financial details. Take into account the effect that the following might have on your client’s ability to stay solvent throughout litigation, and as a result, what financial expectations might be shaped on their end:
- Credit score
- Mortgage rate and balance
- Personal balance sheet
- Type of health care plan they have, i.e. public vs. private
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid eligibility
Having extra hands on deck is helpful as you examine these and other details about your client’s current financial situation. A settlement planning professional is particularly helpful, for example, if a client receives needs-based government benefits; an incoming settlement can impact eligibility unless appropriate actions are taken. This type of financial expert can conduct a full examination and provide the information needed to make critical settlement-related financial decisions.
2: Know the Stakeholders
When a family pursues a settlement, people inevitably come out of the woodwork. By knowing up front who the stakeholders are – and who the fair-weather friends are – you’ll know who may be shaping your client’s view of the settlement. A good suggestion might be touching base with your client on a monthly basis to stay up-to-date on any changes in the interested parties.
3: Know Your Client’s Psyche
Plaintiffs have often suffered through personal injury or the death of a loved one, and most of them have never seen substantial wealth in their bank accounts. Litigation is a daunting process for those who have never been through it, and the concept of them taking a settlement recovery and creating a lifelong plan can seem impractical to someone who has been through a personal or physical trauma. Employing a holistic approach that addresses best possible outcomes vs. worst possible risks can help mitigate some of the uneasiness inherent to the settlement.
If you “follow the dollar” and proactively develop an understanding of your client’s financial situation, it can be easier to create an environment in which they have faith that post-litigation life will meet their expectations. For you, that can translate into a more satisfied client.
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).