NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Each year, there are nearly 25,000 employment lawsuits filed in the U.S. and the majority of cases settle out of court before ever going to trial.1 When an employment matter, such as wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, or other claim, is settled out of court and an employee recovers damages, they may have the option to receive the money in a lump sum or a structured settlement. While a lump sum may seem attractive, MetLife’s 2023 Structured Settlements Poll, released today, found 81% of plaintiff attorneys are concerned that their clients will deplete their settlement award lump sums too quickly, despite 66% believing their clients are financially savvy.
“Deciding whether to take a settlement award as a lump sum or a structured settlement is a critical decision that can have serious, long-term consequences and plaintiffs need to understand their options,” says Bejan Shirvani, vice president and head of Structured Settlements at MetLife. “Structured settlements are a tax efficient approach that provide guaranteed payments, ensuring that plaintiffs don’t deplete their award too quickly and protecting against market volatility.”
Recommending Structured Settlements
Nearly all employment plaintiff attorneys, 97%, are very or somewhat familiar with their clients’ ability to take their employment award as a structured settlement. And, 96% of these attorneys at least occasionally, if not always, recommend that their clients consider using a structured settlement instead of taking their settlement award as a lump sum.
When it comes to who has the responsibility of recommending this approach to settlement awards, 86% of employee plaintiff attorneys believe they should be the one to recommend that their clients consider a structured settlement when the circumstances are appropriate. This includes nearly half, 42%, who strongly agree that they should make the recommendation.
However, this recommendation is not made in a vacuum. In addition to their advice, employment plaintiff attorneys always or sometimes encourage their clients to meet with tax attorneys (86%), financial advisors (86%), certified public accountants (80%), and structured settlement brokers (73%) to discuss their settlement award.
The Benefits of Structured Settlements
There are a number of considerations that drive employment plaintiff attorneys to recommend structured settlements to their clients. Included among the top reasons are: structured settlements provide guaranteed payments for either a certain time period or for life (57%), allow them to receive some immediate cash now while providing long-term steady payments for the future (55%), ensure that clients won’t deplete their award too quickly (51%), provide tax-efficient payments/reduce taxes (48%), and allow clients to receive periodic income thereby spreading their income tax obligations over time (46%).
Structured settlements can provide a tax efficient means of receiving the settlement award by spreading income tax liability across future years. With a lump sum, the client’s tax obligation needs to be paid in full at the time the settlement is reached. In comparison, with a structured settlement, clients will pay taxes in the year payments are received.
In addition to these advantages, 86% of attorneys agree that structured settlements can be a good negotiating tool for employment matters to speed up the resolution of a claim and/or make it more likely to settle, avoiding a lengthy trial along with the associated legal costs and potential emotional toll.
The Role of Brokers
A majority, 84%, of employment plaintiff attorneys believe structured settlement brokers play an important role in positioning the value of a structured settlement, including 31% who believe they play a very important role.
“Brokers play a vital role in highlighting the value of structured settlements, not only providing education to attorneys, but also working with plaintiffs to help them understand how structured settlements work,” says Shirvani. “Brokers have an opportunity to further strengthen their relationships with attorneys by providing guidance on how to position structured settlements with clients, including best practices, case studies and real-world examples.”
In fact, nearly two thirds of employment plaintiff attorneys (62%) have been approached by a structured settlement broker about structuring their clients’ settlement award. Among those in contact with brokers, nine in 10 (90%) receive a call or email from a structured settlement broker at least once a month, including 61% who hear from brokers 2-3 times per month.
About the Study
The MetLife 2023 Structured Settlements Poll was fielded between May 2 and May 15, 2023. MetLife commissioned MMR Research Associates, Inc. to conduct the online survey using an online panel of pre-identified attorneys. Survey responses were received from 250 employment plaintiff attorneys who specialize in employment litigation or who litigated an employment case in the previous 12 months.
MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), through its subsidiaries and affiliates (“MetLife”), is one of the world’s leading financial services companies, providing insurance, annuities, employee benefits and asset management to help its individual and institutional customers build a more confident future. Founded in 1868, MetLife has operations in more than 40 markets globally and holds leading positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. For more information, visit www.metlife.com.
1 Lex Machina, Employment Litigation Report 2022, August 2022