A few months back, I wrote about qualified settlement funds as an emerging standard of care in litigation.
A quick recap: a qualified settlement fund (QSF) is a critical tool in post-settlement planning, a fund where the settlement monies can sit while both plaintiff and attorney take the time and space they need to financially plan without eliminating options.
The topic of today’s newsletter, however, is focused on a very specific QSF – a groundbreaking new fund currently in the process of being filed. “The Settlement Account” is a special trust designed specifically to care for the needs and circumstances of survivors who receive a personal injury settlement from a sexual assault case. Beginning next month, instead of accepting settlement monies outright or even settling into a general QSF, any sexual assault survivor across the U.S. who receives a settlement will have the option to settle into The Settlement Account.
But why have a dedicated fund for these individuals? Isn’t it just an extra step? It all comes down to that emerging standard of care, the idea that the journey doesn’t end for plaintiffs once they reach settlement. In many cases, the journey is just beginning. And it is on us as their trusted legal and financial consultants to do everything in our power to make that journey successful for them. The idea of a specialized QSF allows us to tailor the blanket settlement experience to the needs and circumstances of each unique plaintiff class.
The Settlement Account, for example, affords sexual assault survivors:
- Unlimited time and space to financially plan for the future without eliminating options (i.e., trusts, structures, and tax-free investment accounts)
- Access to legal and financial professionals who have been trained in the latest in trauma-informed care
- Free, comprehensive settlement planning services from a nationally recognized firm
- Ability to maintain anonymity and confidentiality due to the generic “The Settlement Account” nomenclature
Take the hypothetical story of Jane Doe – she is a college student who was sexually assaulted by a peer and is just reaching the end of a long, painful legal battle against her perpetrator. She is receiving $5M from the lawsuit’s settlement. Without The Settlement Account, she would be up against an entirely new round of unanticipated stress following what was already one of the most traumatic experiences of her life. Before that $5M hits her bank account, she would need to figure out exactly what she wants to do with it, how she wants to allocate it, how she can prevent her mom (who sees all of her mail since she still lives at home) from finding out about this whole situation that she’s just not ready to talk about yet … all while interfacing daily with legal and financial professionals who aren’t properly educated around her needs as a survivor.
But with the creation of The Settlement Account, those worries and stressors are alleviated. Jane is able to take as much time as she needs to process what has happened and make impactful financial decisions with as clear a mind as possible. She doesn’t have to worry about mom finding out about anything – a piece of mail from the generic “The Settlement Account” can fly under the radar as easily as another one of those Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupons. And all the while, Jane is only interfacing with professionals who understand her unique circumstances and treat her according to the latest standards set by trauma-informed care.
As legal and financial professionals, it’s never enough to file our paperwork and call it a day. I challenge us all to rise to the occasion and continuously innovate for the benefit of our clients.
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).