One of my first moves is to throw the “posse” out of the room when we talk about money. It’s horribly sad to see someone who is severely injured or who has lost a loved one in an accident. It’s even sadder when others get their hands on the settlement.
2. Another “tell” is someone who has already spent the money before they’ve gotten it. I’ve seen people borrow lots of money and order expensive items before the case is settled. It’s not unusual for these people to have unrealistic expectations as to what they will receive.
An easy way to combat that is to show them published verdicts and settlements from situations similar to theirs. Just because a friend of a friend heard about someone who got $50 million for a bad paint job on their BMW does not mean it is going to happen to you.
3. If someone does not handle money well before a settlement, it is going to get worse when they have more money, more decisions and more people wanting part of what they have.
I go through a simple, informal checklist of where a person is financially. Do they have a lot of credit card debt or seem to always be running behind? If so, what can we do to prevent that from happening? There are a number of mechanisms such as trusts, structured settlements and other ways to control money at the time of settlement — to protect someone from himself or herself.
4. Are people clueless about possibly losing government benefits? A number of health care-related programs are designed to help injured people, and the Affordable Care Act promises many new ones. But if someone is not diligent about protecting the benefits they have, they will not be diligent about protecting any settlement award.