Settlement planning is a process that can be summed up as optimizing all the elements of a personal injury settlement for the claimant’s benefit.
The extent to which any individual settlement can be optimized is always fact specific. This means that the particular elements of each claimant’s settlement, or proposed settlement, need to be carefully considered along with the claimant’s needs and goals before any plan can be suggested or implemented.
The Benefits of Planning
Claimants and plaintiff attorneys both benefit from settlement planning. For claimants, settlement planning holds the potential of two related benefits. Planning can allow claimants to receive larger net settlements while also making settlement proceeds last longer and do more for them post-settlement. Settlement planning can do this by leveraging all of the planning options that are available in light of a claimant’s circumstances and the elements of the case.
For plaintiff attorneys, conscious planning presents the opportunity of discharging their fiduciary duty to clients more fully. In turn, this can minimize the risk of malpractice claims by increasing client confidence and client satisfaction. Client confidence is increased when claimants know that their interests are being protected both pre-settlement and post-settlement. Client satisfaction is increased when settlements are maximized, which can also lead to easier case management and increased referrals over time.
Planning Should Start Early
All planning is a proactive process by definition. Settlement planning is no exception and so the earlier it begins the better. Beginning early presents its own challenges, however, because the frequent unpredictability about case values and settlement dates can inhibit planning.
Even when planning early is not possible, however, claimants are generally better served when they are well informed. Just having an early discussion often makes them more receptive and puts them in a better position to make decisions as their case progresses to settlement.