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Author: Helen Johnson

Insider Secrets to Structured Settlements

Insider Secrets to Structured Settlements

When it comes to structured settlements, there is a lot of misguided information on the internet. There are many companies or experts who will make recommendations based on the commissions they are paid instead of what is best for you. This article will cover the insider secrets banks, brokers, and “experts” don’t want you to know.

If you have suffered a personal injury through no fault of your own, chances are it was a traumatic experience, to say the least. The time it took to settle could have taken many months or even years. The stress you went through was overwhelming, to say the least. When the judgment was finally given, the next surprise you received was that you would be paid through a structured settlement. A monthly payment over many years instead of receiving your settlement in one lump sum.

This may have confused you, as the attorney you hired and who received one-third of your settlement amount received his/her payment in one lump sum, so why didn’t you?

This dates back to the 1970s when legislation was put into place to protect the victim in a personal injury case to have consistent income, as many people who were receiving a lump sum would spend it within the first year and then go on the government roles for welfare assistance. The government wanted to have not only stability in the economy but security in the growing cities.

The Decision to Sell Your Structured Settlement

Secret #1: There are many structured settlements which have “no-sell clauses” and most people just accept that clause and never consider the option of selling their structured settlement for cash. What they don’t know is a little-known secret that a judge can override the “no-sell clause”. It’s true. This is why it is vital you pick the right company to help sell your structured settlement.

Selling a structured settlement is no small task, and it can often be one of the biggest decisions of your life. Getting the right advice for you and your family is important. Apparently, you are suffering some financial hardship, or you would not be on this page learning of your many options to get out of your stressful situation.

There are two factors in front of you now. Your short-term financial health and your long-term financial health. Some experts will tell you that you can focus on one or the other, but there are not options which will fulfill both. This is just not true.

Secret #2: You can sell just a portion of your structured settlement and not the entire account. A lot of companies put pressure on you as it is an “all or nothing” option for you. Maybe you just need 20% of your account in cash to get through a short-term financial crisis.

You may think this is a new option, but it has been around ever since structured settlements began. Most companies do not mention that it is an option as their commissions and profits are much lower. This is why it is important for you to be armed with the right information so you can make not only the right decision, but also ask the right questions

Secret #3: Annuities and Structured Settlements aren’t the same and shouldn’t be treated the same. A structured settlement is an award judgment most often associated with a personal injury case. Annuities, on the other hand, are typically part of a retirement strategy. During a person’s working years, they set aside money to be placed in an annuity which gets better than standard interest rates and then the money is paid back in monthly installments once the person decides to retire.

Secret #4: Having the right reason to sell your structured settlement. If you have the attitude of “it’s my money, I should get it no matter what” you might be in for a shock. Why? Most people don’t know they have to appear before a judge to explain why they want to sell their structured settlement. The judge may or may not ask a series of follow-up questions, and then he/she will make the determination. Some of the reasons which have been most successful in granting the sale of a structured settlement is:

  • Wanting to go back to college or vocational training to receive their degree for a promotion or a better position with another company, or for an entirely different career which will provide a more stable and higher level of income.
  • To make a down payment on a new home to give the family a stable home environment.
  • Pay off debt to avoid having to file for bankruptcy.
  • Starting a business.
  • Investing in a business venture with a solid business plan
  • Pay off outstanding medical bills from an unexpected illness

Do one or more of the above scenarios match your current situation? If so, it makes sense for you to pursue selling your structured settlement with a licensed broker. If your case doesn’t match any of the above, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should not contact a broker; it just means that your reasons may not be substantial enough for the judge to approve. The broker is the best person to advise you on the path moving forward.

Secret #5: The right judge DOES make a difference if you get approved or not. You know the old saying, “it’s not what you know, but who you know?” This is particularly the case with judges. This is not implying that hiring the right company will get you automatically approved as they have an “in” with a judge. That borders on bribery or a quid pro quo. This is not the purpose…the purpose is if a certain judge is known to approve cases in certain areas and deny cases in areas that you fall into, the broker would be wise to tell you to either drop the pursuit of selling your structured settlement, or work to get a different judge for your case.

Information is power.

I am sure you are taking this all in, but in the back of your head you are still staying, “it’s my money, and I should be able to choose how I spend it.” You have to focus on how the process works and that a judge must sign off on your case. Mainly, the judge must approve of the reason why you wish to sell your structured settlement payments. The judge must believe it is in your best interest to do so.

Some examples that a judge will probably not approve of is if you want to buy a Lamborgini with the money, or if you want to help a friend or someone else in need. The fancy sports car is an easy answer why the judge would not approve, however, what about the person in need? You see, the judge is looking to see how the sale will improve YOU, not others.

At DRB Capital, the well-being of people like you are our top priority. We won’t give you advice based purely on the chance of earning a commission. If we believe that selling your structured settlement would be a bad choice for you either short-term or long-term, we will advise you against doing so.The following are examples of instances in which we have counseled customers against selling their structured settlements:

  • Performing home renovations for aesthetic purposes
  • Purchasing a new wardrobe
  • Buying a car for a child as a graduation present
  • Taking a year off work to travel the world

While many of these are good and worthwhile expenditures, none of them provide a direct benefit to the owner of the structured settlement or improve their quality of life in the long-term.

Pros and Cons of Selling a Structured Settlement

Selling your structured settlement or annuity can have great and even life-changing implications. Selling your payments can vastly improve your standard of living. But, there are downsides to selling that each and every owner of a structured settlement or annuity needs to be aware of before making the final decision. While it may seem that receiving a lump sum of cash carries little downside, keep in mind that to receive that payment, you will be forgoing future payments from your structured settlement when you decide to sell it in its entirety. In essence, by the sale of a structured settlement or annuity, you are actually ‘borrowing’ from your future self.

With DRB Capital, you have the option to sell some payments, while leaving the remainder of your scheduled payments intact.

When a customer comes to DRB Capital looking to sell their structured settlement, we make sure they have a thorough understanding of the advantages as well as the drawbacks of their decision. The following are the pros and cons of selling a structured settlement or annuity that you need to be aware of before you make the decision to sell.

Pros of Selling a Structured Settlement

  • Immediate access to a large lump sum of cash that otherwise would have taken months or even years for you to receive
  • The ability to invest in endeavors that can substantially improve your prospects, such as credit card debt repayment and consequent credit repair, furthering of education, home ownership, business ventures, etc.
  • Relief from healthcare-related debt
  • Unlike a loan, the money you receive is yours and never has to be paid back

Cons of Selling a Structured Settlement

  • Once you receive a lump sum payment after selling all of your payments, you will no longer receive your structured payments
  • Actually managing a one-time, massive infusion of cash is much more challenging than budgeting based on smaller, predictable, structured payments
  • Certain unscrupulous structured settlement buyers will allow you to “sell” your structured settlement before a court has awarded you the settlement in what is called ‘pre-settlement funding.’ If the judgment isn’t returned in your favor, you will end up owing back the money at exorbitantly high-interest rates

As with any decision that will have a substantial impact on your life, selling a structured settlement has its advantages and drawbacks. The best course of action is to work with a structured settlement buyer you can trust and talk through the decision, considering your particular circumstances and deciding whether or not the pros outweigh the cons.

Avoiding Structured Settlement Fraud

In the structured settlement industry, as in most other industries, reputable buyers are looking out for the best interests of their customers, and other buyers are looking to profit at the expense of customers. It is these unscrupulous buyers that taint the industry as a whole and scare some would-be sellers into forgoing the opportunities selling their structured settlement could afford because they are afraid of being ‘scammed.’ While it would be irresponsible to deny that structured settlement fraud exists in the industry, there is a sure-fire way to avoid it: perform your due diligence and deal with a reputable structured settlement buyer you trust.

What is Structured Settlement Fraud?
Structured settlement fraud can appear in many forms, with the most common being dishonest structured settlement buyers convincing customers it is in their best interest to lie to a judge about the way they intend to spend their lump sum to gain approval for a sale that never should have happened.

Actual cases of structured settlement fraud have ranged anywhere from just misleading judges as to how cash payments will be spent, to actually falsifying residential documents to make it appear as though a seller lives in a state with laxer structured settlement selling laws, when in fact, they do not. At the time, these customers may have felt as though those buyers were looking out for their clients. After all, they agreed to the buy structured settlement payments no one else would. But in the long-term, many victims of structured settlement fraud can find the results devastating.

How Can Structured Settlement Fraud Be Avoided?

The best way to avoid structured settlement fraud is to work with a structured settlement buyer with a good and solid reputation. How can you tell which company is the wrong one to work with? In your online research, if you can’t find anything negative, but when you call they don’t ask you why you want to sell, they just go right to the quote, this is a red flag that they are just interested in getting your business without understanding your circumstances or if selling the structured settlement will help them at all.

The Structured Settlement Selling Process

Selling your structured settlement isn’t just walking into an office and then walking out with a check a few minutes later. It is a complex and serious process which requires the approval of a judge. This is for your protection.

The first step in the process is something you have most likely already done, or you are planning to do so, which is to contact companies to purchase your structured settlement. At DRB Capital, they make it easy for their customers to find out exactly how much they’re entitled to by either calling directly or filling out a quote form online. Either way, their top quote guarantee gives you the peace of mind you are getting the most money with the fewest headaches possible.

Once you have a quote from DRB Capital, the next step you want to take is to discuss your personal situation your contact and he or she will determine if selling your structured settlement is the right financial choice for you. If your reasoning for wanting to sell your structured settlement is valid, they will agree to purchase your structured settlement for the amount in the quote you received.

Before the deal for your structured settlement cash out can be finalized, a state court judge must approve the terms and the transaction. Don’t be nervous as we will have a representative attorney by your side during the process. It is as simple as explaining your reasoning to the judge.

After the overseeing judge has approved the sale of your structured settlement, your funds will be made available so you can get on with your life with less stress. DRB Capital makes the transaction as quick and easy as possible for our customers. While they do their best to get the entire process done in under thirty days, often completing the entire process from the initial quote to receiving your funds averages 45-90 days. While this is the industry standard, we strive always to get your money in your hands as quickly as possible.

Why Choose DRB Capital?

When you decided that selling your structured settlement is your best option and that DRB Capital is the company you want to handle the transaction, there are a few things you can rest assured you will receive.

  •  you will get the most money for your structured settlement with the DRB Capital guarantee
  • excellent customer support
  • one professional and knowledgeable contact from start to finish
  • A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau
  • one of the most knowledgeable, trustworthy and respected structured settlement buyers in the business

Make the right choice. Choose DRB Capital.




Pursing Multiple Defendants

Pursing Multiple Defendants

Again, recognize that in almost any setting there can be multiple potential defendants in any given personal injury scenario. Attorneys often look to these potential claims and defendants as ways of expanding the pool of available insurance. Often, even if one potential defendant is marginally – or even questionably – negligent, based on a variety of factors insurance companies may decide to settle, or contribute to an overall “global” settlement, even when the case may not seem all that strong.

They may have a variety of reasons for doing so (costs of defense, significant potential verdict, bad press, etc.) and the motives are irrelevant. What matters to you is attaining the result you desire. Adding to the pool of potential contributors (i.e. defendants) only makes that goal more likely to be reached by spreading the risks and costs of settlement among more players. This very often makes settlement more likely to occur, and more economically feasible. In most litigation, defendants are “jointly and severally” liable. This is a good thing for you; it means that each defendant is on the hook for up to the entire amount of the verdict or judgment.

Thus, even if one defendant is found only 1% negligent (when the liability assessment is made), but they have substantial assets; and the main tortfeasor responsible for the other 99% of liability is virtually broke, you may collect from either, or both, [EQUALLY] up to the full amount of the verdict or judgment. Later, the defendants can fight amongst themselves as to who repays and indemnifies whom. (That is not something for the plaintiff to really need worry about) This is a powerful motivation for defendants to cooperate and bring the matter to a resolution before trial. As such, insurance companies can often be sensitive to even slight exposure. Having and using this knowledge can DEFINITELY be to your advantage in dealing with insurance companies. If they fear a potential $1 million exposure, they may very well be willing to part with $50,000.00 right now, to conclude the matter once and for all and be done with it. For them there is safety and certainty in settling; whereas even the costs of litigation alone will likely cost them that much, regardless of the outcome.

Another consideration, is that insurance companies not only pay the verdict amount when they go to trial, but they must also pay their own (not insubstantial) attorney fees – – usually 5+ years worth. Worse still, they often must pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees as well (as the prevailing party). This is in addition to costs, plus pre-judgment interest (8 – 10%, per year); which means a $1 million litigation verdict in 5 years, could potentially add on up to $100,000.00 – per year for the last five years (i.e. $500K) just in interest, let alone fees or costs. This can easily cause the verdict amount to more than double! This is WITHOUT considering any potential punitive damages (if applicable). Thus, trial is a costly and somewhat hazardous business for insurance companies.

Often times, even the attorney costs from insurance companies’ OWN COUNSEL can be quite high and is often a source of heated debate between them. Insurance companies have refused to pay these costs, or submitted their very own insurance defense attorney bills to “billing review” in an effort to “trim the fat” and curb costs, attempting to keep their own attorney fees under control. Universally, the “billing reviews” find the defense attorney fees “too high” and they argue/negotiate with their OWN COUNSEL about these fees and demand reductions. This obviously creates animosity between the insurance companies and their own counsel; sometimes even precipitating into litigation amongst themselves.

The bottom line is, the settlement is often in EVERYONE’S best interest prior to litigation, if at all possible. This is a given, without even factoring in the potential for runaway verdicts (where juries at times award astronomical amounts to plaintiffs), bad faith verdicts, or being hit with the other parties attorney fees. These elements can cost insurance companies heavily, let alone forcing the defendant’s insurance company to incur yet more (significant) expenses in pursuing [usually new, specialized] appellate counsel to have the “runaway verdicts” reviewed on appeal. Further, large verdicts are “news,” and people hear of this and ultimately more lawsuits result. Thus, for a variety of reasons, settlement prior to trial should be the ultimate goal of both plaintiff and the defendant. It is usually a win/win situation for both parties.

One perspective that should be realized and recognized early on in dealing with an insurance claim, is this: There is often a great deal of difference between dealing with an insurance company or a self-insured company directly; and a defense litigation law firm. They in many ways have divergent and competing agendas and should be approached somewhat differently. There are fundamental and distinct differences, and you should learn to recognize these and to try to find a way to use or exploit these differences to your advantage.

The previous paragraphs have been discussing dealing with an insurance company; and for all intents and purposes, when you are dealing with a large company by itself [often self-insured] it is much the same. Sometimes very large companies, casinos, etc., with billions in assets; may nevertheless wish for SOME type of insurance indemnifying them from huge lawsuits and catastrophic claims. Therefore, they take out large policies, but to keep premiums reasonable, they have significant deductibles [or Self-Insured Retentions, S.I.R.’s] that they themselves handle. These companies “manage” these deductibles and their own claims up to pre-determined dollar values.

However, in dealing with insurance companies and large companies with S.I.R.’s, you will notice a distinct difference in the way they handle claims as opposed to insurance defense law firms. Essentially, law firms – specifically, insurance defense firms – work on an hourly basis. This is how they get paid and how the firms do business. They DO NOT want to settle claims, at least in the early stages, as this works directly against their own monetary interests.

Using and Structuring Liability Policies

Using and Structuring Liability Policies

We have examined how medical payments can be used and structured to our benefit. Let us now examine the same above factual scenario (of the friends riding together to lunch and getting into an accident; assuming the same set of underlying facts) but now with respect to the liability policies involved, not just med pay. This is every bit as important to one’s overall case and overall recovery. [*NOTE: These principles are absolutely useful and relevant to motor vehicle accidents, but also to accidents of all kinds]. Several principles are explored here: reducing overall medical expenses to net more money; how to use, stack and structure underlying liability policies to your benefit, etc.

This is relevant to all factual settings: slip and fall accidents; premises liability cases, product liability cases, etc. We use the above previous factual setting simply for illustrative purposes, but also because motor vehicle accidents (including pedestrian accidents) are by far the most common type of accident. In our previous example you will recall, we have two friends riding together to lunch and they were struck by another vehicle; and injuries resulted causing $14,500.00 in medical expenses to one passenger.

Before we proceed too far in this discussion it is important to note the various types of potential coverages that might be used and might be applicable here. Initially, there is the liability policy (mandated by virtually every state) from the person who caused the accident. Second, there is (or could be, as this coverage is not mandatory) the UM/UIM [Uninsured Motorist/Underinsured Motorist] coverage which either the injured passenger could have; AND/OR the UM/UIM coverage from the “friend,” the driver of the vehicle the injured person was riding in. Either of which (or both) could be available to the injured party if their injuries were significant enough and the coverage of the person who caused the accident was insufficient to compensate you fully for your injuries.

In addition to this, either you the injured party, and/or your friend (the driver of the vehicle you were riding in) could have medical payments coverage – which both did – which you could use. [Neither med pay nor UM/UIM is mandatory, but added coverage and elective]. Remember, we cannot use defendant’s third party med pay (if any). Finally, there could be umbrella coverage (again; elective coverage, not mandatory) that you could avail yourself of if you had it [or your friend, if any]; IF your injuries were significant enough and the underlying coverages were inadequate.

For instance, let us assume the circumstances were somewhat different, and you were riding as a passenger in the vehicle of a friend who caused the accident, and they also had UM/UIM coverage. As such, you certainly could pursue the 3rd party coverage since they were at fault. But, as a guest passenger in the vehicle, the UM/UIM coverage would (theoretically) also be available to you, as would any available med pay. Unfortunately, you cannot go after both from the same policy, you must elect one or the other. The law frowns on this and considers this a double recovery, from the same policy and for the same injuries. You must elect one coverage or the other; sometimes this is easy, but other times not so. In many cases, someone may have higher coverages under one provision; say because it was a leased vehicle requiring at least $100K/$300K liability coverage, but they might only have $15K UM/UIM coverage, and thus you would elect the higher limits of the 3rd party liability policy.

However, your friend (the driver) might have the same limits, perhaps a relatively modest coverage of $25K/$50K for the 3rd party and 1st party coverage as well; but in this scenario he hit a car with four people in it, who will all now be trying to cut up the $25K/$50K 3rd party policy; FOUR WAYS! Whereas you, as the only passenger in his vehicle, as well as your friend [if he HAD a UM claim] could split the $50K aggregate limit amount; meaning each of you could pursue up to the single person limit of $25K. Plus, if you pursued the 1st party limits, you could also use the Med Pay coverage, which you could NOT if you proceeded under his 3rd party policy limits. There are many considerations, just realize you would have options in this situation.

The above list is not exhaustive, but merely lists the normal coverages which might, and often are, involved in a motor vehicle accident. There certainly are, or can be, other policies that could be brought into play when factors warrant this. In fact, sometimes even Workman’s Compensation can even be involved in a motor vehicle accident (or other type of accident) if the injured person was at work at the time and was in the “course and scope” of their employment duties (not on some personal errand). For example, cab drivers, bus drivers, a traveling salesman, etc. As such, the potential for wide and varied types of insurance policies to be involved is there. Do not limit yourself in thinking about the accident or how to approach it.

As to our previously discussed factual scenario, let us assume that the person causing the accident had the state mandated minimum $15,000.00 policy (generally listed as $15K, $30K, $10K; meaning: $15,000.00 per person maximum single person injury limit; $30,000.00 aggregate for the entire accident, regardless of the number of passengers; and $10,000.00 in property damage). Further, let us assume that your friend driving the car had $25K/$50K UM/UIM coverage. (It is always listed together as UM/UIM, even though they are slightly different things. UM [Uninsured Motorist] coverage is for when there is no third party insurance at all, and UIM [Under-Insured Motorist] coverage is for inadequate third party coverage, which cannot fully compensate a person for all their injuries). Insurance companies do not allow you to carry higher UM/UIM limits than your liability coverage, so if you want high UM/UIM limits, you must carry equally high third party liability limits. You do not have to carry MedPay at all.

UM/UIM is some of the best coverage around, and ensures that YOU are covered no matter what anyone else may possess. Very important coverage to have. Umbrella coverage may be the very best coverage to have. On a dollar-for-dollar and pound-for-pound basis, without a doubt the best coverage you can possess. Insurance companies impose some restrictions, like you generally must have maximum UM/UIM coverage as well as your homeowners with them to obtain this umbrella coverage. But this will ensure that you have adequate coverage for all but the most catastrophic of accidents. Even though these coverages may cost a little extra, but it is worth it. When you REALLY NEED coverage, serious coverage, it had better be there. Many people have serious accident injuries, and could recover potentially millions, but often have inadequate coverage. This is unfortunate, and you simply cannot count on other people insuring you. Even if you paid $2,000.00 per year in premiums for years; in a serious accident you could receive all of this back you ever paid in (for twenty or thirty years aggregate) times a factor of 20.

Finally, let us assume that you had $100K UM/UIM coverage. In our previous discussion, we had neck injuries and $14,500.00 in medical bills. (When we discuss “medical bills” we discuss what is essentially the “full retail” amount of the bills, not the reduced amount that Medicare or our health insurance paid. The opposing insurance company is not entitled to consider these reductions or argue for them by reducing the amount of your demand accordingly. It is, and was, YOUR insurance coverage that YOU paid for. A defendant (or his insurance company) cannot in effect receive a “windfall” and a reduction in the claim amount, simply because you happened to have health insurance (and because the health insurance company negotiated lower capitated rates). So you also use, quote and argue the FULL retail amount of your medical bills, and this is acceptable and the legal norm.

Further, remember that there is subrogation, and that you WILL have to pay back the medical insurer. Thus, we should never allow, or listen to, an insurance company arguing for, or trying to take advantage of, the fact that you may possess health insurance. Specifically, even if there was a reduction, you must reimburse the medical insurance, so it is almost like you double pay. [Not only is the opposing insurance company complaint not relevant, and something they are not allowed to inquire into or argue at trial; but it is something that YOU paid for and must pay back through subrogation. Therefore, do not allow opposing insurance companies to argue for reductions in your medical specials (bills) because of your health insurance payments!] However, rest assured, an insurance company will still try. If an insurance company can get away with something, anything, they will attempt to. Less knowledgeable, less informed plaintiffs might fall for this argument. Don’t you.

In our original scenario you were injured and underwent physical therapy for your injuries for

In our original scenario you were injured and underwent physical therapy for your injuries for C7, and then you saw an orthopedic surgeon who recommended surgery for you. This scenario illustrates a few points. First, your damages are not simply confined to “actual” damages, but also encompass “future” damages (your needed future surgery, etc.). Often, this is the biggest component of a personal injury case or trial. We know you had $14,500.00 in ACTUAL “medical specials” (as they are termed by insurance companies).

“Special damages” are enumerated damages such as medical bills, wage loss, etc; (and these are different from “General damages;” such as pain and suffering); but you now also require a neck surgery, which our orthopedic surgeon estimated at $111,200.00; which covers the surgeon and assistant surgeon fee, the hospital, the surgical hardware, post operative physical therapy, etc. You can see in this instance, the future medicals [the needed future surgery] is significantly larger than the rest of the damages, the “actual” damages – and this is very analogous to most personal injury cases. (Ultimately, will the complete surgery cost this much? Probably not. Will we pay this much? DEFINITELY not! This figure is mainly used for the opposing insurance company’s consumption).

This brings your “medical specials” to a total of $125,700.00 (actual and future); and you also missed 6 weeks of work at $800.00/week ($4,800.00 total). If surgery is undergone, there would obviously be further wage loss, perhaps as much as 6 months worth. This certainly could be argued for as well. Thus, we have special damages alone in excess of $130K (actual and future damages and wage loss), and if we argued for future wage loss that would add approximately $21,000 more, raising the total to over $150K in special damages. “General damages” are generally considered by an insurance company (or judge, jury, or arbitrator/mediator), to be some rough factor multiplier of this figure (perhaps 2, 3, 4 or more times this figure).

As such, we would compile all of the medical bills and write a demand letter to the respective insurance companies involved and give them say, thirty days (the usual) to respond. Likewise, we would normally deal with the third party tortfeasor insurance company first, then the driver’s insurance company, then your company, etc. in that order. However, sometimes this protocol may be skipped. For instance, if we knew the limit and size of the respective policies, we could (and probably would) submit all of the demands simultaneously. The reason being that the size of the claim is quite likely in excess of $250K and perhaps as high as $500K or more.

All of the policies combined only equal $147,000.00. ($15K from the 3rd party; $25K from the friend’s UM/UIM policy and $2K in med pay, and you have $100K UM/UIM and $5K in med pay. Med pay IS counted by insurance companies when figuring out the appropriate offset, although there is no subrogation component to this coverage, it is essentially free. Regardless, $147K is a small recovery as against $130K in special damages. Here one would net less than $20K for general damages (pain & suffering, etc.) – if no reductions were made on the claim. As presented to the insurance companies [again compartmentalizing our information] they would look at this and think this person is walking away with very little overall compensation; AND if they denied this claim and went to trial they would very likely get hit for a large verdict several times their policy limits. [Notwithstanding any possible “bad faith” exposure as well]. They would very likely settle all of the respective claims.

The reality of what you would actually net out of the situation would be somewhat different though. If the surgery were undergone, and all of the respective medical bills were processed under Medicare, the roughly $125K would most likely become about $25K, no more than $30K. The medical providers would be forced to write off the remainder of their medical bills. Let us assume $30K for our Medicare lien, and we negotiate a 1/3 subrogation lien reduction with Medicare. As such, we would end up really owing only $20K out of the overall settlements in subrogation fees for paid medical bills. Once we applied for the med pay (payable to ourselves, not some other third party, so that WE could take advantage of the Medicare and subsequent subrogation lien reductions), we would gross $147K and need to pay $20K out, netting $127K. THIS, is not a bad net at all for such an injury. If surgery were not undergone, one would net even more.

Normally, EVEN IF we hired an attorney, and EVEN IF he could get $300K (there is not even that much coverage here); by the time he took his 1/3 fee; and then paid the medical bills on a “lien” (where the doctors agree to hold their billings until settlement or trial), the “lien” bills usually get paid in full or maybe a 20% reduction; one would net FAR LESS. All of these facts assume the limited insurance involved. IF either you or the driver had even a basic umbrella policy (starting at $1 million), a much stronger recovery could be had. This factual and accident scenario is by NO MEANS far fetched, these types of injuries and medical bills happen every day.

An important point to note is that while in this scenario, most likely all of the carriers would tender their respective policy limits. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, one of the carriers will refuse to settle, even if settling makes sense; and even if it appears they might get hit with a significantly larger verdict. This can be the fault of an adjuster, or simply the policy of the insurance company involved or the self-insured entity. (Many large business entities; usually multi-billion dollar entities – are either “self insured”, or have large “self insured retentions,” [S.I.R.’s] in effect very high deductibles, that they manage and pay themselves). Thus, only if a claim exceeds that amount [of the S.I.R.] does the insurance company become involved.

Sometimes, insurance companies do as they please, and often appear to have an “axe to grind.” They make decisions which transcend mere dollars and cents decisions concerning a particular claim. For instance, many casinos or large shopping chains will often spend many times what it would cost to settle a claim, just to litigate the claim; to “send a message.” There is a policy consideration involved, as certain companies do not want to be seen as “soft” (i.e. companies that settle every claim). Thus, they wish to set a precedent, and set the tone for future claims and claimants. They want it known that IF someone gets hurts there, they can COUNT ON fighting this matter tooth and nail and needing to retain an attorney and going to trial. This type of corporate policy, often separates the wheat from the chaff and most attorneys learn quickly and will not take a case against this entity unless it is a VERY STRONG one!

As such, if the factual scenario above happened, it is not always certain each of the carriers will agree to settle. This does not necessarily stop you from moving on or collecting from the other involved insurance companies. For instance, let us say that in the above case of you and your friend going to lunch together (with $14,500.00 in medical specials), that the third party tortfeasor’s insurance company wished to settle for their $15,000.00 policy limits; but that for whatever reason, your friend, (the driver’s) UIM insurance company did not wish to tender any part of their limits.

In many jurisdictions you would not be precluded from pursuing other policies. For instance, since the 3rd party tendered limits, we could now pursue our OWN UM/UIM limits, effectively skipping your friend’s policy (for now). This would mean, that when presented to your own policy we would simply have to show the policy limits that we DID receive; as well as the offset for the policy that was NOT tendered to you (the next in line to you).

This would work like this: $15,000.00 was received from the 3rd party insurer; then we would allow for a $25,000.00 OFFSET for your friend’s policy which did not/would not tender their limits; then apply the $2,000.00 med pay that was received from the same policy (often they will tender med pay, even though they may not tender their liability or UM/UIM limits, since med pay is applicable irrespective of fault, even if you are the at-fault party); then you would allow for the $5,000.00 which was received by your own med pay policy) before the UIM could be applied for.

Thus, you could present to your own carrier for your own UIM limits (even without obtaining all intermediate policies first), however the AMOUNTS of the policies would still be offset against or counted. Therefore, before your policy would consider paying UIM, they would count that you had already received $47,000.00 in policy limits before evaluating your claim. [$15K 3rd party; $2K med pay; $5K med pay; and $25K UM/UIM offset – even though this amount was not actually received yet, and will need to be litigated for).

As such, if your claim were worth $50K, you would be paid $3K additional by your own carrier. If the claim were worth $75K, you would be paid $28K additional money. Only if your claim were worth in excess of $147K would you be able to collect the entire $100K UM/UIM limit. [* Recall also the earlier discussion about “stacking.” If any of the UM/UIM policies allowed stacking that could be used, or offset against, as well as any possible umbrella policy] Thus, one MAY collect policies concurrently or out of order, but the opposing insurance policy is always allowed to argue for and count the offset that would apply. So, do not take a denial by one insurance carrier as a bar to pursuing any others.

In a strange way, this can even work out to be a positive, as it gives you some now money but also allows for litigation later over the remaining policy(ies). If the refusal/denial came from a UM/UIM carrier, you could then pursue a bad faith claim. If the company that refused to settle was the third party policy, when you sued them it would be for the ENTIRE VERDICT AMOUNT (plus pre-judgment interests, attorney fees, etc.); and they would NOT be allowed to argue later for offsets against ANY amounts you previously collected from the UM/UIM policy(ies). This is considered your insurance that YOU paid for. It would be improper for the third party to both deny your claim thus forcing litigation; yet later attempting to benefit from that denial by arguing for an offset from the very insurance that you paid for. Therefore, they would be on the hook for the FULL VERDICT amount, regardless of what you had previously received.

Recall also that you may collect from four or more insurance policies (providing your injuries warrant it). Initially from the third party driver and if he happens to be borrowing the car he is driving, from the car owner’s policy. Likewise, you could collect from your own UM/UIM and if you happen to be riding in a vehicle, that UM/UIM policy for that vehicle as well — along with any potential umbrella policies that either UM/UIM policy happens to be tied to, or any other applicable policies). There may be other policies that could be pursued as well. This is driven by accident severity, overall injuries, special damages and the factual setting. Thus keep an open mind and realize you may be able to pursue numerous parties under various theories of negligence. Likewise realize, that when arguing “CLAIM VALUE” to an insurance company, it is a very open and nebulous thing. Nothing is “hard and fast” or written in stone about it.

To some degree a little research can help you determine values; some of it is also driven by overall medical specials; just as some is driven by the type and severity of the injuries and their permanence in nature, etc. You can research similar cases and what they have settled for; or use a “valuation service” like JVR (Jury Verdict Research – Appendix 1) to help you arrive at an appropriate number. Remember, to some degree it is guess work. Further realize, that no matter what you ask for; even if you had a $1 million claim and were seeking only $5,000.00, most insurance companies would try to get you to take $3,000.00!

Their job is to always minimize claims costs and expenses, no matter what. To “stop the bleeding” of cash. They DO NOT care about you and they DO NOT care about your claim, or how injured you are. They are only concerned with how much it takes to resolve the claim. Therefore, keep an open mind when pursuing claims as to “overall value,” however that number may be derived. There is no “right answer” here. You always get AS MUCH as you can get, and the insurance company always seeks to lower this number. Finally, recognize that personal injury cases may have several avenues of recovery, and sometimes multiple defendants. Do not limit yourself or your thinking, be creative.

Insurance Defense Law Firms

Insurance Defense Law Firms

Insurance defense law firms are paper (and paperwork) intensive, and this is how they document and justify their existence. Generating paperwork is how they survive. They DO NOT want to settle cases, at least not right away (not without 3 – 5 years of hourly billing first). Unlike plaintiff attorneys, who receive a percentage of what they settle for, and thus have a direct interest in trying to resolve the matter as rapidly as they can, for the highest sum that they can. Defense attorneys only get paid from their $90 – $150 per hour billable hour fee. They are, therefore, in absolutely NO RUSH, EVER to resolve things at any early stage. In fact, all that an insurance defense law firm gets for resolving a lawsuit early is losing years worth of ‘billable hours’ and thousands $ in fees.

This is essentially what cases mean to insurance defense firms; that they are big, cash cows. In fact, quite unlike the plaintiff or even the defendant or his insurance company paying the legal bills; insurance defense law firms have NO direct tie to, or monetary interest in, the case or its outcome, other than hourly billable fees. Cases mean nothing to them; simply “billing exercises” and a way to pay their bills for the next several years. This is largely why there is animosity between insurance companies and their legal counsel. This is also why many insurance companies have moved to bring their legal counsel “in-house,” working full time for them exclusively.

So, be aware that once a matter is transferred from the insurance company claims department, to their outside litigation team/insurance defense attorneys, things change dramatically. Things shift from, “How can this matter be resolved?” to “How can we drag this matter on as long as possible?” Defense attorneys instantly shift the focus away from settlement, to delay and deny for as long as possible, regardless of the impact to any of the respective parties. This is important for you to know and understand, that if an insurance defense law firm becomes involved or you are forced to file suit, generally at that point things are going to take significantly to resolve.

Defense attorneys will not admit this, but in private joke about this delay and deny policy they use to obstruct things for their own purposes. Of course, this delay policy is couched in different terms such as, “We need ‘additional information’ to evaluate the claim” or they “Need additional reports, facts, or medical information, etc., to properly assess the value.” There is always a “need” and rationale for their ongoing delays and incessant requests for “information” to “round out and complete their files,” even if these requests have virtually nothing to do with the case itself. In essence, defense attorneys use/abuse the legal discovery process to attempt to obtain their dual goals of extended billing and attempting to dig up a little dirt on the plaintiff, so that they may justify this process and attempt to create a defense where many times none exists.

A major tool used by insurance defense counsel is the discovery process. Discovery is the formal process during litigation by which the parties learn of each others’ cases (including strengths and weaknesses). Some of the methods used to obtain information are interrogatories, statements under oath, depositions, and formal exchanges of documents, including photographs, reports, law enforcement reports, investigations, personnel files & data, HPPA protected documents (medical, dental, and psychiatric reports), polygraph examinations, etc. To insurance defense law firms, these processes are merely a means to compel and collect seemingly relevant (but often inane), information that has little to no bearing on the case, and probably never will.

Nevertheless, the compilation of this data enables them to bill a rather tidy sum in “defense” of a claim, and the insurance company not only goes along with all of this but funds it and directs it. This might not seem to make sense at first, but the insurance companies have a motivation, too. All the while this charade goes on – for years, the insurance company is holding (what is in effect) your money. They are earning a pretty strong rate of return [estimated 20% 30% investment returns, worldwide], so they find that the interest on a good sized settlement amount, more than pays for their “defense attorneys” to play their delay/deny game and their “search for the truth” in their litigation (interrogatories, depositions, etc,) requests.

Generally, after years of asking these questions, as trial looms ever nearer, at some point the insurance company will force their legal defense people to finally get around to asking pertinent questions like, “How much money it will take to settle this claim and make it go away?!” Since the insurance company is the entity ultimately footing the hourly legal bills, as well as the final settlement or verdict; at some point they demand an ACCURATE assessment of the true claim value as well as the likelihood of prevailing at trial. Finally, as the matter gets perilously close to trial, often only weeks or sometimes even days away, the truth comes out and settlement offers start becoming higher and more realistic.

Unfortunately, by this point the injured party has invested years in this process. As the trial gets closer, the plaintiff has invested significant amounts of time, effort and energy into preparing for the upcoming trial. The plaintiff becomes increasingly more serious about trial and has (in some sense) less incentive to settle. He has already endured great financial hardship, pain, suffering, and possibly undergone surgery. He has invested a significant amount of money [via his attorney, which he must reimburse] into the preparation of this matter for trial, including retaining expensive expert witnesses, and these costs must be deducted from the settlement. Many times the plaintiff, by now, is angry and bitter, and this case becomes more than “just about money.” Sometimes, the hardships go beyond even this and have caused marriages to crumble and bankruptcies to occur, as well as the loss of one’s job and even one’s house.

Some have suffered complete devastation of their credit rating; they have lost their cars, homes, etc. Thus, by pushing the envelope this long, defense counsel and insurance companies often make matters much more difficult to settle and more serious for all involved. Things become much costlier all the way around, and settlement sometimes becomes all but impossible to achieve, as the stakes have gone up dramatically, and the amount required to settle increases demonstrably. All the while the defense attorneys and the insurance company are unconcerned about what they are doing or making the case increasingly impossible to settle. Therefore, be advised, that when an insurance company ceases to handle claims directly and turns the matter over to their defense counsel, matters grind to an immediate halt for the next 1 – 4 years; or until the trial date looms very near.

Strategies For Retaining Your Settlement Proceeds

Strategies For Retaining Your Settlement Proceeds

Strategies can take many forms in the handling of one’s case; not just on dealing with the insurance companies and trying to receive the maximum amount of money, but also in trying to RETAIN as much of that money as one can. This can be seen as maximizing both the “front end” of the case [the settlement amount(s) we have negotiated for], as well as the “back end” of the case [the medical billings, subrogation liens, and other expenses]. Many times a case can settle for a decent sum, but then much of what is settled for is given away to lawyers, medical providers, loan providers, etc. Minimizing what is paid to these people is an important part in seeing that the maximum dollars go into your pocket. Realize that EVERYTHING in a personal injury case is negotiable! The entire thing is one big exercise in negotiation. Avoiding using an attorney when not necessary is a start. However, an equally important part is negotiating down (often excessive) medical bills to reasonable numbers.

A rough breakdown of a normal personal injury case is generally 1/3 to the attorney; 1/3 to the doctors and 1/3 to the injured party. A good result is one where an injured party nets 50% or more of the overall settlement. A great result is one where a client nets 2/3 to 3/4 of the overall settlement. This seems almost unfair, where to net even half of the money one receives from a settlement, it takes almost special circumstances; but this is reality. As such, we want to do what we can to bring those circumstances about. Thus, to help maximize the overall net amount realized from a settlement; controlling and negotiating down medical bills are a critical component of this. Medical bills can be reduced or lowered through a variety of methods: negotiation; utilizing vehicle med pay; structuring and using multiple health insurance and supplemental health insurance policies; seeking cash discounts; etc.

Your overall strategy to keep medical costs to a minimum may involve several parts. First and foremost, you may personally have (on your own vehicle policy) medical payments coverage [med pay] or you may be able to avail yourself of the coverage of a borrowed vehicle you are driving or riding in as a passenger. This is good coverage, but in a sense a “premium” coverage (explained below) so we may wish to be judicious in our use of it. Additionally, we may possess health insurance (through ourselves, a spouse or parent) and we may likewise be able to use other healthcare insurance (active duty military, veterans administration, etc.). There can be Medicare or ERISA, Medicaid, supplemental policies, etc. Therefore, we may actually have one, or several ways to pay for medical coverage. This is important, but what is just as important is the ORDER in which we use these. Specifically, which insurance is utilized first and in which order the rest are used. This may not seem to be important, but it is vitally so.

We must remember, just paying the medical bills isn’t enough and isn’t the only thing that matters here. Unlike almost every other situation; we, in effect get to “keep the change” (so to speak) from whatever is paid to the doctors. Whatever is not paid to the physicians out of your settlement, YOU keep. To maximize that amount must be our goal. An example is in order. Let us say that you are riding as a passenger in our friend’s car going to lunch. You are involved in a rear end collision and are injured.

Let us say for the sake of argument, both you individually, as well as your friend, each possess med pay coverage on your respective policies, as well as the driver who hit you. Also, assume that you likewise receive Medicare. You had to treat for your injuries, and you sustained some neck disc damage and had physical therapy, X-rays, doctor visits, medications, had an MRI and a couple of epidural steroid injections in your neck. (This is a totally plausible and common scenario from a rear end accident and the injuries that result) Let us assume the total medical bills at this point are $14,500.00.

There are a number of ways to approach these medical costs. You CAN use both your own medical payments insurance, as well as your friend’s med pay. You cannot use the med pay of the opposing party, the third party/defendant (the “at fault” party). Likewise, you could use your Medicare. Med pay should be used judiciously because, strangely enough, it is so widely accepted and pays well. Most doctors really like it. Med pay policy limit amounts are normally either $1K; $2K; $5K; or $10K increments (sometimes $25K), and pay almost any/all medical bills submitted to them, paying them virtually in full.

Thus, it is very easy to “exhaust” the med pay limits quickly and easily. However, one important consideration is that if all of the medical bills get paid, or at least enough to cover the amount med pay would have covered, then you may submit to the insurance company the paid medical bills and they will “reimburse” you for the medical bills which have already been paid [regardless of by whom] and pay you directly. Some people will submit their medical bills to their health insurance, and when a sufficient amount are paid to cover their policy limits (say, $5K) they then get copies of the paid bills/receipts and submit these to their auto insurance med pay coverage and seek reimbursement. Usually, the med pay will then write the person a check for the $5K. [Normally the remainder of the bills are paid by insurance or by personal injury lien, and then when the case settles these are paid by the plaintiff]. However, if the plaintiff desired, the $5K med pay could also have been sent to pay other unpaid medical bills directly.

Additionally, health insurance often negotiates serious discounts with medical providers; whereby they only pay set “capitated” rates. Essentially these are rates which the insurance companies deem constitute “reasonable and necessary” medical charges for the service provided. Thus, if an MRI exam costs $1,300.00 (retail) and that is what a medical provider would expect from you or I, the insurance company may mandate a payment of $300.00, and this is payment in full, with no other payments to be made (or billed to you, excluding any applicable co-pays). Therefore, your insurance often pays 25% – 50% of a medical bill, and the rest is written off.

This enables you to receive very significant reductions, far more than you could ever negotiate directly with the medical providers yourself. An important point to remember when utilizing health insurance, medical insurance, military or veterans medical benefits or other coverage is that these entities possess “subrogation” rights. This means they have the right to be repaid later if they pay for your medical expenses and you later receive compensation for the accident from a third party or an insurance carrier. Subrogation also (potentially) applies to other areas of your claim, and we will discuss this more later. One important note; there is NO subrogation right when vehicle med pay is used. It is simply free.

Therefore, if we analyze the above factual scenario, we will come up with different results depending on which “billing strategy” we use. Typically, the doctors love to hit your med pay first. (Let us assume that your friend had $2K in med pay coverage and you had $5K in med pay coverage; as well as your Medicare coverage) The doctors would exhaust your friend’s $2K in med pay coverage (as you were a covered “guest passenger”). Next, they would go after your own $5K med pay. Med pay pays whatever the doctor bills them – in full. (Not always, but usually).

Therefore, regardless of which medical provider TREATED you first, it is whoever bills the insurance company FIRST who gets paid; it is a race. As such, if you treated with a total of 6 medical providers, a typical med pay ledger might look something like this [you are entitled to receive, and should request, a copy of this ledger to see who was paid, and in what amounts]: $1,453.26; $562.32; $1,698.72; $849.96; $1,105.67; $1,330.07; respectively, to each of the various medical providers listed next to the charge amounts. This would total the $7,000.00 in med pay ($5K + $2K); thus leaving a $7,500.00 balance. The remaining $7,500.00 is billed under Medicare, and let us say they paid approximately $2,500.00 of this, forcing the medical providers to write off the remainder. As such, in the end we would owe Medicare a subrogation recovery when we later collect something from the opposing party.

There are a couple of problems with this however. First, no single provider is paid in full, usually each has a partial payment and a balance. Second, there have been no reductions! This can be done better. While we will always likely owe SOME subrogation recovery to an insurance company, IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANY “BARGAINING POWER”, VIA THEIR NEGOTIATED CAPITATED RATES FIRST! Medicare is in many ways the doctors’ worst nightmare; as they generally have to accept it, and it forces upon them the greatest reductions. (Usual insurance company reductions are in the neighborhood of 25% to 60%; normally paying 40% – 75% of the doctor’s bill. Medicare however, can force reductions of up to 90%, but usually around 60% – 75%. SERIOUS reductions!)

After your co-pays and deductibles are paid, THAT is the extent of your obligation to the doctor! This is an important point to ponder. Many doctors’ offices are less than honest with patients, and seek to bill whatever pays them the most and pays them the fastest; not necessarily what is best for the patient. Whatever will net them the most money. Thus, they virtually always bill med pay first. So, you may wish to be silent about the fact that you have med pay (either just initially, or for the entire claim) for a few reasons. First, you are under NO obligation to either have or use med pay. If you have valid health insurance and the doctor accepts this, let him be happy with this. As soon as they find out you have med pay, they are all too happy to tell you they will “bill it for you.” Some go beyond this, and try to demand med pay, which they have no right to do.

Let us examine things a little differently, re-arranging our billing schedule. If we billed ALL of the $14,500.00 through Medicare, they would probably pay around $4,500.00. The medical providers would have to write off the rest via their insurance reductions/capitation agreements. Now, we would owe Medicare a subrogation reimbursement for what they paid, but it is virtually NEVER at 100% of what they paid. A normal reduction amount is around 1/3, but sometimes more. REMEMBER, everything in a personal injury case can (and should) be negotiated! Depending on the factors: the overall settlement amount, the outstanding medical bills remaining, the net amount you will walk away with, etc., all have a bearing on this negotiation.

THE REASON and rationale behind why the subrogation lien amounts are reduced is simple. In 90%+ of cases, insurance companies pay money and never receive ANYTHING back. Here they receive a windfall of sorts, where they at least get something back in the form of a subrogation payment from a personal injury settlement. Further, they do NOTHING. YOU are required to pursue your case, get a recovery, retain a lawyer if you need to (which alone generally eats up 1/3 of your settlement); and the insurance company just sits back and demands part of that money via “subrogation.” So, it is only considered just and proper by courts that these insurance carriers “participate” in your “costs of recovery” (or PURSUIT) of this matter.

This “participation” of costs is reflected in the reduction of their subrogation lien. Normally, there is a 1/3 reduction, because that is what most people pay their attorneys to GET the recovery. However, sometimes carriers accept a bigger reduction, so bargain hard and start at 50% or less (meaning what you would be willing to repay them, of what THEY paid on your medical bills) and see if they will take this. (Citing all of your unique factors and costs). All they can say is no, and you would be back to the standard 1/3. [33.33% reduction. i.e. $200 repaid by you against $300 paid by them]

If this were ultimately applied to the factual scenario listed above we would likely have the Medicare payment of $4,500.00 erasing all of the medical debt, and then we would maybe pay them $3,000.00 for the release of their subrogation lien. Therefore, we would receive a reduction upon a reduction. From $14,500.00 to $3,000.00 is not bad at all. However, we can make it even better. When we get our billings from each medical provider, we should also get a copy of their “detail bill” and also HCFA 1500 forms (called “hicfahs”). These are industry standardized forms, used by all medical providers and insurance companies, detailing all the services provided, and the all important CPT codes [one for each specific treatment modality as well as the time spent with the patient] and other important data.

These forms will be useful to us later when we compile our demand for the insurance company. However, here and now we can submit the detail bill [which does not usually have the insurance information] to the med pay provider to show that we owe medical bills in excess of the $7,000.00 in med pay, and make a demand for the respective insurance carriers for their med pay policy limits ($2K from one company, and $5K from the other). They can, and DO, make payments directly to you.

However, sometimes med pay wants to see the bills have been PAID (even though this is none of their business, just owing the bills should be enough to invoke med pay). You could inform them that you are, and will be, ultimately responsible for paying all medical bills; [or, if they insist on seeing paid bills, you could wait until after Medicare has paid, and get a second detail bill from the respective providers showing that their bills have been paid in full]. Once the bills are paid, you are owed the med pay money. Period! You should receive the $7,000.00 in med pay money, and YOU would pay the $3,000.00 subrogation lien negotiated by you to Medicare, and anything left would be yours.

You would have done nothing wrong, and simply structured the available coverage to your best advantage. Compartmentalizing information can be, and IS, very useful in a number of ways when handling a personal injury case. Giving out gratuitous information virtually never does anything but harm you or your case. No one, NO ONE, in a personal injury case is your friend or there to help you! Remember this. Every party, from the tortfeasor, to his insurance company, (or even your own), to the medical providers and the medical insurance companies are all (in one way or another) adverse parties to you. So, you would merely provide each respective party with THAT which he needs to know, and no more!

In one fashion or another, every other party in this matter has interests different and divergent from your own. You may very well end up on the opposite end of litigation with any one of them. DO NOT GIVE ANYTHING BUT THE MOST BASIC INFORMATION NECESSARY. They are not there to “help” you or anything else. They represent THEIR companies and THEIR interests, period. YOU represent your interests. That should say it all.

Without trying to make this seem overly difficult or hard (which it is not) you need to really grasp the gist of this. Present to each respective party (without lying to them) that which you wish them to see. Show one facet of the matter at a time; that which is relevant and pertinent to what you are attempting to accomplish with that party, at that time. There is nothing to be gained by giving or offering gratuitous information. Many times and in many ways, the most seemingly harmless and innocuous bit of information has come back in the most amazing ways to hurt or impede a claim, or even to push a matter into litigation. Sometimes, this cannot even be seen or foreseen at the time. It is simply better and wiser to play your cards “close to the vest.” We can dub this careful “information management.” Not allowing information to be seen that we do not wish to be seen, or that will not be of direct benefit to our case.