Maryland has become a hotbed for controversy surrounding structured settlement purchasing companies. A lot has been said over the last couple weeks about businesses taking advantage of the plethora of cases that have been settled in the state, many of which stem from lead poisoning victims in the city of Baltimore. While the Washington Post has outlined the plight of those getting burned, it’s important to realize this is only a small portion of the industry. The majority of companies involved in the purchase of annuities and settlements do so in a mutually beneficial relationship.
The biggest issue found in the cases studied by the Washington Post is that the people targeted by these vulture companies are poor and uneducated. Saul Kerpelman is one of the lawyers that has defended primarily black clients in lead poisoning cases.
“A lot of them can barely read,” Kerpelman said. “They have limited capacity. But they fall through a crack. If they were severely disabled enough, you could file a court petition to have a trustee manage their property. But they’re not disabled enough.”
Unfortunately, it’s this awkward in between state that can lead to people in desperate situations making hasty decisions. However, this would appear to be the vast minority. One 2010 legal study on structured settlement claims by Jeremy Babener found that there was a 92% satisfaction rate among those that sold structured settlements.
The consumer advocacy site, consumerist.com, ran an article last week detailing the “10 Things We Learned About the Structured Settlement Purchase Industry.” It should be noted that all of the examples of shady and unethical deals were provided from one source, Access Funding, which seems to be a pariah in the industry.
This is why it’s important to research the company you’re doing business with beforehand and make sure they’re credible and reliable. It’s also vital to do your own homework and figure out the difference between what you’ll receive in annuity over a certain amount of time and how much you’re being offered up front. If the disparity is too great, do what you would in any other industry and shop around.
The benefit to selling an annuity or settlement is that you get the cash immediately. Of course you’re not going to receive the full amount; broker services aren’t free. Just make sure the difference is reasonable. When you do get the money make sure you have a plan in place to pay off whatever bills or debt you have as well as put away some in savings. Otherwise you could end up like 70% of lottery winners that lose all their money in five years or less.