Most auto wreck claims are settled out of court, and the proceeds are paid in a lump sum payment. However, as our San Diego car accident attorney details, there are situations when it's better to be paid through a structured settlement where you receive the payments over time. If you're considering this option, it's important to understand what a structured settlement is and when it may be in your best interest to agree to it.

What Is a Structured Settlement in California?

What is a structured settlement?Under California law, victims are entitled to receive past and future compensation for their injuries from the negligent driver responsible for the crash. A structured settlement can be beneficial if you suffered a catastrophic or long-term injury that requires you to need medical care for your injuries in the future and your ability to work is limited. It's also helpful when the victim is a minor child, and special procedures must be followed to get the settlement approved by the court.

If you resolve your claim with the motorist’s insurance company and agree to a structured settlement, your payments will be issued over time. You may receive an initial larger payment and smaller amounts every month or at set intervals over the years or throughout your lifetime.

You can negotiate all the terms of the structured settlement so that it's tailored to meet your individual needs. This includes:

  • Length of time you'll be paid.
  • How often you want to receive payments.
  • Amount of your first payment and the subsequent ones.
  • Whether you want a larger payment at some point in the future because of higher anticipated expenses.
  • Whether you want a lump sum payment at the end of your structured settlement.
  • Whether you want the structured settlement to end at your death or to be paid to your heirs.

The other driver's insurance company will most likely purchase an annuity to ensure you receive your entire settlement award. It's an insurance policy or investment guaranteeing you will receive your payments over time.

Pros of a Structured Settlement

It's important to understand the pros and cons of a structured settlement to know whether it's a good option for you. Even if you're fairly certain you want to be paid this way, you should consult a knowledgeable San Diego car accident lawyer before deciding.

Here are some of the benefits you should consider:

You May Receive More Money

When an insurer pays you through a structured settlement, it may be willing to offer more than if you want a lump sum issuance. This is true because it most likely won't pay the full value of your settlement to the annuity insurance company. It may negotiate the payment amount based on several factors, such as your life expectancy.

You Have More Financial Certainty

If you receive a large lump sum payment, it might initially feel like you've hit the jackpot, and it's easy to think you'll always have enough to pay for medical treatments and have ample income. However, this isn't always the case if temptation or other family members enter the picture.

But, if you receive your payments over time, you're more likely to budget based on the steady stream of income you're receiving. This allows you to anticipate money to cover essentials and care for you and your family.

You May Save Taxes

While the majority of your car accident settlement isn't taxable, you could owe income taxes on portions of what you receive, such as for the following:

  • Lost wages and lost earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering damages paid for non-physical injuries
  • Punitive damages
  • Interest paid on the settlement proceeds
  • Interest and dividends you earn if you invest your settlement proceeds

When you accept your payments over time, you can spread the tax liability over several years rather than having a large tax payment for the year you receive the settlement.

Drawbacks of a Structured Settlement

Like most things in life, a structured settlement has pros and cons. Some of the cons include:

  • You won't have full control of your money and may be unable to access it if you have an unexpectedly significant expense.
  • You could make more money if you invest the settlement proceeds.
  • You might not understand the true value of the settlement if the insurance company doesn't disclose how much it's paying for the annuity.
  • The payments could end prematurely if you die earlier than expected.
Mark Blane
Connect with me
San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer | California Car Accident Attorney