Many injured workers who settle their workers’ compensation claims struggle with how to ensure they’ll have enough money throughout their lives. There are many issues to consider in addition to continuing medical care – paying monthly bills, funding a child’s education, and unexpected expenses that may arise. There may also be concerns about complying with various government programs, such as Medicare and future tax implications.
Partnering with an expert settlement consultant is a must for any injured worker thinking of settling his workers’ compensation claim. There are many issues to consider and personal decisions to be made. A competent, experienced professional who spends time getting to know the injured worker and his loved ones can provide invaluable insight and guidance in the process.
Many people expecting a large sum of money opt for a large cash windfall over a long-term plan. Sadly, despite their best efforts to preserve it, many of these individuals find the money is soon depleted. Statistics show this happens all too often.
Injured workers who settle their workers’ compensation claims are no different. But those who have the benefit of working with an expert can realize the myriad options involved in a settlement regarding how, when and what amount of money they can collect to meet their specific needs.
As an example, we’ll take a hypothetical case.
John is 57 years old and has been receiving workers’ compensation benefits for 7 years after being severely injured in a work-related accident. John is tired and frustrated with the workers’ compensation system and would like more control over his medical decisions. However, he has significant worries about the settlement amount. He doesn’t know how much would be appropriate to cover his lifetime medical costs and is concerned that he will run out of money too soon. He also has several outstanding debts that must be repaid soon. And he has a family and is worried he won’t have money to address their needs, now and in the future.
Finally, there is the issue of Medicare. He’s been told his medical care would need to be funded through a special fund to ensure Medicare is not forced to pay for treatment that should be covered through workers’ compensation. He doesn’t quite understand that or what his obligations would be.
John and injured workers like him could have much improved, empowered lives — if they had an experienced, capable settlement consultant available to help. Such an expert could spend time with John and his family and sort out their various needs:
- Money to pay off immediate expenses
- Medicare and its requirements
- College education funding for his children
- Wedding expenses for his eldest daughter and her boyfriend
- Funds to eventually help care for his aging parents
What John and many others may not understand are the various legal changes over the years that have made a long-term settlement plan much more appealing. For example, the government allows structured settlement payments to be income tax-free if they are the result of a physical injury, sickness or wrongful death. Congress has established specialized annuity contracts to meet the special needs of injured people, and to address the concern that too many people spend their money quickly. The idea is to incentivize injured workers and their families to take their settlement money in a series of guaranteed future payments.
Contrary to what some may believe, there is also the option to take some of the money upfront, and/or as a future lump sum payment. There are no constraints on how the money is paid. For example, it can be
- Any combination
The amount paid is also adjustable. There could be a set amount for a few years, then increasing payments to handle anticipated future needs. The money can also be paid out over the person’s lifetime, or set up to continue being paid to heirs upon the person’s death.
In the case of ‘John,’ the settlement could be set up to receive money upfront to pay off his debts, then a stream of steady payments and influxes of larger sums at various points in the future to take care of his family’s needs. A competent settlement consultant can also put John in touch with other professionals such as:
- Lifetime medical care management.
- Lien resolution
- Financial planning.
- Tax consequences.
- Government benefit programs.
- Legal issues.
- Retirement planning.
- Insurance concerns.
Life is complicated and planning for a lifetime of medical management and financial stewardship from a workers’ compensation settlement is overwhelming and difficult. Working with a settlement consultant who understands the fears, needs, and concerns of the injured worker can both save significant settlement costs and bring peace of mind that lasts a lifetime.
Author Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%. He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center.
Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/
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