STRUCTURED SETTLEMENTS

What is a structured settlement?

A structured settlement is an agreement to take payments over time rather than in a lump sum.  Many personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are settled using a structured settlement. The claimant or plaintiff receives payments over time, usually from an annuity, tax free.  The structured settlement industry saw explosive growth in the 1980’s due to a 1982 amendment to the tax code that gave favorable tax treatment to property and casualty insurers who use structured settlements to settle claims. While a structured settlement offers many advantages, the inflexible nature of the settlement terms can sometimes leave the claimant with a need for liquidity.

What is a factoring transaction?

By the mid to late 1990’s, an industry had been created where companies purchased these streams of payments from annuitants, giving the annuitants access to lump sums of money that were not previously accessible under their structured settlements.  Abusive practices in the industry led to the enactment of state statutes known as “Structured Settlement Protection Acts” designed to provide standards and a process for the purchase and sale of structured settlement payment streams, with the transfers requiring court approval.  In 2002, Congress enacted IRC Section 5891, which imposed a stiff tax penalty for transfers made without court approval.  In 1997, Illinois became the first state to enact a structured settlement protection act.  Wisconsin’s enacted its structured settlement protection statute in November, 2015, leaving New Hampshire as the only state without a Structured Settlement Protection Act. A structured settlement protection act is now moving through the New Hampshire legislature.

Recent amendments to many of the state structured settlement acts have strengthened their protections.  The Virginia and Florida statutes now require that the transfer petitions be filed in the seller’s county of residence.   Maryland now requires that “factoring” companies register with the Attorney General’s office.  There are many companies in the secondary market purchasing structured settlement payment streams. Some companies are legitimate, and others are not.  Sellers should exercise caution when responding to advertisements offering “cash now!”

The rise of structured settlement factoring fraud.

In recent years, many companies in the factoring industry have employed high pressure predatory sales tactics to raid large structured settlement annuities designed to provide a lifetime of income, security and medical care for personal injury victims.  Instead of these companies providing needed liquidity to annuitants in times of hardship, these companies target people with large structured settlement annuities and shop for courts and judges they know will rubber stamp petitions that don’t meet the best interest standard required under state and federal law. Some companies target elderly sellers, or those suffering from mental illness, or with intellectual disabilities.  Many companies targeted victims of lead paint poisoning.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a warning to individuals thinking of selling their structured settlement payments that can be found here.

What exactly is forum shopping?

In order to comply with Section 5891 of the Internal Revenue Code, a factoring company may only file a transfer petition in the seller’s state of residence or domicile (unless the seller lives in New Hampshire, where a different rule currently applies).  Edward Stone Law has been advised of many situations where a factoring company told a seller that it is legal to file a transfer petition in another state.  It is not. If you have been a victim of forum shopping, contact us now via email at eddie@edwardstonelaw.com or by phone at (203) 504-8425.

Are you a victim of structured settlement fraud?

If you or someone you know has been victimized by structured settlement fraud, Edward Stone Law will evaluate your case at no charge, and let you know if help is available. Check here for recent updates from Edward Stone Law on structured settlement fraud.

Edward Stone Law is familiar with all aspects of the structured settlement industry.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance with respect to your structured settlement issues. You can reach us by email at eddie@edwardstonelaw.com or call us at (203) 504-8425.