This year’s NSSTA Annual Conference agenda included several speakers from outside of the structured settlement industry, who came to offer their valuable perspective on the future of structured settlements and issues that may arise in the future. One of these panels, hosted by Melissa Baldwin of Atlas Settlement Group, included Elise Sanquinetti, the incoming president at the American Association for Justice (AAJ), and Laurie Klimchock, the Chief Operating Officer for the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC).
They discussed the following, from the perspective of the AAJ and the CAOC:
• Federal issues matter – The reason these issues matter is because of the possibility of pre-emption. Positive work done at the state level, or in the past at the federal level, can be undone by one new anti-consumer bill being passed by Congress.
• An active PAC is important – At the AAJ, the focus has been on encouraging positive, pro-consumer legislation and watching out for legislation that may cause harm. Being able to have one-on-one conversations with elected representatives is critical. There are issues that are bi-partisan, constitutional rights matters, and representatives from both sides of the aisle can agree. However, there needs to be an opportunity for an organization like the AAJ to provide this education. Also, it’s important to constantly matter activity in Congress of all types – riders can be added to budget and appropriation bills that negatively affect consumers, and open communication with elected representatives is extremely important.
• Liability MSAs are going to be a challenge, and an opportunity – As of 10/1/2017, new CMS rules will go into effect, and attorneys that may have never done an MSA as part of their practice will need to start doing them. This is a change in procedure for many, and an opportunity for NSSTA members to reach out and provide education on MSAs.
• Educating attorneys on the benefits of structured settlements is key – The work that structured settlement consultants do is not necessarily taught in law schools. If a firm does not train their attorneys on the benefits of structures, attorneys may not ever have a good understanding of how structured settlements can help injury victims. It’s important for consultants to have one-on-one meetings with lawyers just entering plaintiff or defense work. This education is especially important when it comes to MSAs, special needs trusts and government benefits.
• Coalitions are critical – With the changes in the political landscape since the 2016 election, it’s important to build a community of consumer rights groups, advocates for people with disabilities and attorneys, both defense and plaintiff, that fight for the rights of injury victims to seek justice. There is so much common ground, and the only way to make elected representatives listen is to come together. There is a huge push in Washington to make lawsuits more difficult and complicated for claimants. Access, education and building understanding remain key goals of the work done at the AAJ, and organizations that have the same goals need to stand together.
• Protecting clients is an attorney’s top priority – Whether it’s through legislation, or in an individual case, an attorney’s main goal is to protect the client. Structured settlement consultants play a huge role in that mission, and it’s important to be involved in the process and remind attorneys about the benefits of structured settlements.