attorney negotiating with handshake

Structured Settlements Part 1: What is a Structured Settlement?

Greg Abbott’s Personal Injury Case

Greg Abbott, current Texas Governor and former Attorney General, suffered a life-long crippling incident in July of 1984. He and a friend were out for a run in the Texas country. Suddenly, they heard a loud sound and before they could know what was happening, Abbott was pinned to the ground by a tree with a crushed spine and a forever changed future. He would never walk again.

The Texas Tribune posted an article with the details behind the structured settlement Abbot eventually won in a lawsuit two years later. He sued the homeowner of the property the tree was on and the company responsible for inspecting the tree and taking care of it. It was classic negligence that lead to long term consequences and a multi-million dollar settlement.

The settlement was structured to provide Abbott with the money he would need to accommodate being a paraplegic. He was guaranteed a monthly income that would rise by 4% interest compounded annually plus periodic lump sum payments that would also rise as he got older to accommodate the rising cost of living.

In 1986, he received his first lump sum payment of $300,000. He receives lump sum payments every 3 years. On November 1, 2013, 29 years after the incident, he received a lump sum payment for $400,000. His monthly payments started out as $5,000 in 1986. Now he receives $14,400 a month. He’s receiving about $570,000 for this year. Every payment is tax free and does not have to be reported to the IRS.

What is a Structured Settlement?

This is a pretty amazing case isn’t it? So much money after so much time? This is a great example of a structured settlement and how over time they continue to provide when someone has been wrongfully injured. Through this story we can understand how personal injury cases sometimes involve consequences for one’s entire life. Therefore, structured settlements are created to compensate the victim. Here’s how Black’s Law Dictionary defines a structured settlement:

“Type of damages settlement whereby Defendant agrees to make periodic payments to injured Plaintiff over his or her life. Commonly such settlement consists of an initial lump-sum payment with future periodic payments funded with an annuity.”

In our next blog we will discuss how structured settlements work and the particulars behind structured settlements: how courts schedule and determine the amount of a settlement, how you know if a settlement is tax free, and how do you know if you should argue for a structured settlement in your case? Click here to find out more about structured settlements.