End Distracted Driving (EndDD.org) is a distracted driving awareness movement that hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. and Canada have heard about. The campaign has been gaining momentum since Joel Feldman and Dianne Anderson founded EndDD.org in memory of their daughter Casey, who was killed by a distracted driver.

With the help of community leaders, trial lawyers and other professionals, EndDD.org provides science-based presentations to middle school, high school and college students, and to adults, parents and businesses. To date, more than 325,000 teens and adults have seen EndDD.org presentations, and more talks are being scheduled every day.

The presentations are informative, interesting, and inspiring, and there are still MANY schools the campaign has not reached. Scheduling an EndDD.org presentation is all about getting in front of the movers and shakers who get excited and get it on the school’s schedule. Below are a few tips for getting schools to say yes.

Step One: Talk to the Right People

distracted driving presentationWhen reaching out, make sure you’re speaking to the right stakeholders from the beginning. Who does the scheduling for lunchtime presentations and assemblies? Sure, the school principal could easily get EndDD.org talks booked, but they’re often too busy and difficult to pin down for a meeting. Instead, think about the people who are working with the students all the time – especially those whose job it is to take safety seriously. That means possibly contacting and talking with the school nurses, health aides, physical education instructors, counselors, athletic coaches and trainers, and parents.

A word about parents: there’s always that one parent or group of parents in every class who gets things done. Who is in charge of the freshman class? What about the eighth graders? And so on. The student class president might be able to get involved, too. It’s all about getting access to the people who aren’t school administrators but can easily elevate the idea of a talk to the right people.

Important: When you’ve found the right person to help you get the talks scheduled, be sure to explain to them that the presentations are free and can fit into a class period.

The local mayor’s office or other community-based organizations might think it’s a good idea to have a district-wide program using EndDD.org. Partnering with other safety organizations, police officers, and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapters has the potential to push the campaign further. Reaching out to these groups and public figures could mean gaining the opportunity to join forces with other nearby speakers and visit every school in the area. That’s truly maximizing your impact.

Utilizing the Resources on EndDD.org

EndDD.org has a dedicated page of speaker resources that take the guesswork out of the entire process – from the initial cover letter to the full student presentation to additional campaign materials to help you spread the message.

When you’re ready to officially pitch the idea to schools, there’s a customizable cover letter to introduce the EndDD.org Student Awareness Initiative. However, don’t just send the letter or an email and hope it’s enough to convince someone about the power of this campaign. Attach the outreach documents along with the letter – they provide some additional info to show credibility of EndDD.org and its work and mission. I can’t stress enough how useful these resources are as you reach out and create buzz about the presentations.

Together, these materials describe the full breadth of the initiative and the effectiveness of the free, scientifically based presentation you’ll give to their students. Again, be clear that the free presentations run about 35 to 45 minutes so they can fit into a class period. This is an important selling point when you’re discussing the presentation from a logistics standpoint.

In partnership with local lawyer associations, EndDD.org has also created custom presentations for targeted areas. If you have ideas about how to make your presentation even more effective in your area, call the organization at (855) 363-3478 or email info@EndDD.org.

Timing Your Contact

EndDD.org volunteer speakers who are successful in booking and presenting multiple talks a year send letters at opportune times throughout the year. To carve out time in schools, it’s important to think about the school schedule. Start the conversation in the fall with a letter and by reaching out to the people we’ve listed above. In the early winter after the break, schools are likely planning the spring schedule. If you haven’t scheduled a talk yet, it’s a good idea to reach out again and get on the calendar for the spring. April is Distracted Driving Month, so schools and organizations may be more open to hosting a talk during this time. It’s also a popular topic to feature around prom.

Not a Speaker by Nature? There are Many Other Options

Naturally, not everyone is a fan of speaking to an auditorium full of people. There are multiple other ways to join the movement to fight the distracted driving epidemic in our country. You can, for example, host a presentation in your community and find a volunteer speaker to present to the audience. You can raise awareness through other forms, too, such as essay competitions or fundraisers. Below are a few other ways to join the cause and spread the word:

  • Donate to EndDD.org
  • Email and connect with Founder Joel Feldman to find out about upcoming local EndDD.org events or learn how to get one started.
  • Like EndDD.org on Facebook and share the message on social media.

Think about the impact this organization would have on communities and our country if we could all join forces to wipe out distracted driving. Consider helping the cause today.

 

About John Bair

John Bair is an experienced settlement planner and financial consultant with a passion for ending distracted driving. As a frequent EndDD.org volunteer, he has spoken to audiences  around the country. To assist others in raising awareness, John has written numerous guides and articles about giving successful EndDD.org presentations in schools, business, and community settings. He is a proud board member of the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.enddd.org/.

gender diversity in lawWomen En Mass highlights issues that affect women “from the boardroom to the courtroom” and provides an opportunity to work toward solutions that make a positive impact on women everywhere. Year five is around the corner! Building on the success it has established over the past four years, the organization invites the country’s brightest female mass tort attorneys to Aspen, Colorado on September 26 and 27.

Women En Mass is hosted by the organization’s founder, Aimee Wagstaff of Andrus Wagstaff. Last year, speakers included renowned attorneys such as Lori Andrus, Jayne Conroy, Ariana Tadler, Kim Witczak, and many others. Some of the presentation topics included:

  • Equal pay in the field of law
  • The financial risk and responsibility of a successful mass tort firm
  • E-discovery and new federal rules
  • Legislative updates on matters affecting legal practices
  • Updates on the status of current and upcoming mass torts

Milestone Consulting is a proud supporter of Women En Mass. Our company continues to attend the annual event and applaud the organization’s outstanding efforts. As the website notes, “The world may have changed a great deal for women in America over the last 100 years, but there’s still work to be done.”

If you or any of the female attorneys at your firm are interested in attending this year’s conference, I strongly encourage you to visit www.womenenmass.com.

Many attorneys still believe that a settlement planning firm is a one-trick pony, useful only when their clients are interested in structuring their settlement. However, there is a vast range of planning opportunities available to plaintiffs, and knowing them can ensure their long-term financial security.

why hire a settlement planner

Comprehensive settlement planning firms aim is to help ensure clients have a bright financial future and get the most out of their settlement for as long as possible. And while deferring compensation is one way to help achieve that success, it’s not the correct option for everyone. The best strategy may require a combination of wealth management, long term risk analysis, mindfulness of future healthcare costs, and protection under a trust. This may mean establishing one or more of the following:

  • An asset protection trust
  • A special needs trust
  • Medicare compliance with a Medicare set-aside
  • A wealth management plan

Combining these methods will help the plaintiff meet his or her immediate needs while preserving a portion of the wealth to take care of future needs. Generally speaking, there is room for a settlement planner in every case. Here are a few reasons why:

Without a proper plan, your client could lose certain government benefits. Needs-based government benefits like Medicare and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be affected when a plaintiff receives his or her settlement proceeds. Assets as low as a few thousand dollars could disqualify a claimant from continuing to receive these much-needed benefits. A settlement planner can evaluate the impact a settlement will have on government benefits and develop a durable strategy to avoid disqualification.

A trust may be the most effective way to protect your client’s assets and benefits eligibility. Disabled clients under the age of 65 can preserve their settlement proceeds and keep their needs-based government benefits with a special needs trust. A pooled special needs trust may be the most useful option for clients over 65. A settlement planning firm can establish the trust for your client, vet trustees, and ensure all decisions are made in your client’s best interest.

A Medicare set-aside (MSA) might be needed to preserve a client’s benefits eligibility. An MSA is an amount of money that’s put aside to protect a beneficiary’s future Medicare eligibility. This voluntary arrangement demonstrates a good-faith effort to fund future care without relying solely on Medicare. By establishing an MSA, plaintiffs are indicating to the Centers for Medicare Services (CMS) that they are not trying to extract undue funds from the Medicare system. A settlement planner can determine if your client will need to establish an MSA to protect eligibility.

Liens can negatively affect settlement resolution. More obstacles lie ahead if your client has outstanding liens. A settlement planner can work with experts to audit the lien report, ensure there are no unrelated charges, and assist your client with an efficient resolution.

Deferred compensation may still be the answer (or part of it) to a durable financial plan. Structuring your client’s settlement, instead of handing over a lump sum of money, may still be a great option. Even deferred compensation methods are totally customizable these days, so a settlement planner can work with the plaintiff to find a great solution.

Settlement planning takes a holistic look at a plaintiff’s individual situation, including their lifestyle, finances and other factors. Based on this understanding, a settlement planner will then help develop a plan for the incoming settlement. Contact a comprehensive settlement planning firm to find out more about their services for plaintiffs.

 

 

ABOUT JOHN BAIR

John Bair has guided thousands of plaintiffs through the settlement process as co-founder of Milestone Consulting, LLC, a broad-based settlement planning and management firm. Milestone’s approach is comprehensive and future-focused. John’s team has guided thousands of clients by taking the time to understand the complexities of each case. They assess the best outcome and find the path that enables each client to manage their many needs. Read more about Milestone Consulting at http://milestoneseventh.com/.

Having worked with many families with children who have special needs, I have seen the beneficial role technology can have in all sorts of applications. For decades, developers have been creating tech tools to help people with special needs learn, communicate and socialize. There have been outstanding advances over the past few years.

technology to assist with special needs

In 2008, Harold Thimbleby brought up the concept of user-centered design (UCD), which is based on users’ capabilities and needs to successfully and effectively use a piece of interactive technology. In  “Understanding user centred design (UCD) for people with special needs,” Thimbleby argues that UCD is a largely unquestioned tenet of good practice for the design of interactive tech. He urges that UCD needs to be re-examined to ensure its methods are achieving its objectives to best assist people with special needs. Now, nearly a decade later, have advancements been made?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools in the United States to educate special needs students in the least restrictive environment possible. Today, portable assistive technology (AT) devices are boosting students’ independence and redefining the structure of special education classes and extracurricular activities.

According to an article published in Reading Rockets, for individuals with special needs, AT includes devices, equipment or systems that help “… bypass, work around or compensate for an individual’s specific learning deficits.” While AT often refers to computer hardware and software and electronic devices, many AT tools are now available on the Internet. Some AT tools for people with special needs include:

  • Abbreviation expanders in word processing programs
  • Alternative keyboards
  • Audio books and publications
  • Electronic math worksheets
  • Graphic and information organizers and managers
  • Note-taking tools
  • Optical character recognition through text-to-speech programs
  • Personal listening and transmission systems
  • Portable word processors
  • Proofreading programs
  • Speech-recognition programs
  • Talking calculators, spell checkers and electronic dictionaries
  • Variable-speed tape recorders
  • Word-prediction programs

There are other forms of technology designed to help all students through instruction rather than bypassing areas of difficulty. Instructional software, for example, can teach academic skills like reading and writing as well as subject matter like science.

AT applications go far beyond learning environments. In the past few years, home artificial intelligence devices have become much more common, and their uses can be helpful for people with special needs. The voice-controlled Amazon Echo can answer questions, control other home devices like the lights, thermostat, sprinklers and more, read news and audiobooks. It can call an Uber, report the weather, and provide scores of other information. Google Home, with the familiar phrase “OK Google,” provides similar amenities as the Echo. Earlier this year, we posted about the benefits of these devices and recommended users review parental controls.

No doubt, our tech-savvy era has allowed developers to come up with ways of assisting people with special needs and challenges in many ways. These advancements in software and tools will hopefully continue to improve so they can better assist people with living their best lives.

 

 

About John Bair

John Bair is an experienced settlement planner and financial consultant. He helps families develop strategies to provide lifelong financial support for children with disabilities, catastrophic injuries, special needs, and congenital abnormalities. Read more about John’s work and his firm, Milestone Consulting, at http://milestoneseventh.com/.

 

Last month, we discussed the basic structure of trusts, to which three different parties have specific obligations and privileges:

Grantor – establishes the trust
Trustee – manages the trust’s assets
Beneficiary – receives benefits from the trust

The trustee accepts the responsibility of managing a trust’s finances and selecting investment vehicles in line with the purpose and goals of the trust’s founding document.

Naturally, choosing the right trustee to administer your child’s special needs trust is a big decision. We’ve compiled an infographic to help you get started.

special needs trustee

The trustee for your child’s special needs trust will be tasked with supporting your child’s future. If you’re exploring your options for a trustee, feel free to contact Milestone Consulting for additional advice.

 

ABOUT JOHN BAIR

John Bair has guided thousands of plaintiffs through the settlement process as co-founder of Milestone Consulting, LLC, a broad-based settlement planning and management firm. Milestone’s approach is comprehensive and future-focused. John’s team has guided thousands of clients by taking the time to understand the complexities of each case. They assess the best outcome and find the path that enables each client to manage their many needs. Read more about Milestone Consulting at http://milestoneseventh.com/.

THIS POST IS THE SECOND IN A SERIES TITLED “TAXABLE SETTLEMENTS 101,” IN WHICH WE ANSWER COMMON QUESTIONS AND USE NOTABLE CASES AS EXAMPLES.

Last week, I discussed the BP oil spill litigation and its tax implications for plaintiffs who received a settlement. If you’re a plaintiff in litigation and read my post, you may be wondering if your own settlement is taxable — and if so, what you should be doing now in order to prevent a big tax hit. Below, I answer a few key questions to get you started.

taxable settlement

Is the settlement I am about to receive taxable?

As a taxpayer, any monetary award you receive is assumed to be gross income and is taxable. Fortunately, the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) permits a taxpayer to avoid paying taxes on any settlement money — aside from punitive damages — received due to personal physical injuries or physical sickness. Punitive damages refer to damages awarded that exceed simple compensation, which are awarded to punish the defendant.

If your settlement is due to a physical injury, sickness, or wrongful death, you will not need to pay tax on your settlement when you initially receive it.

If I invest my settlement money, will it be taxed?

If you invest your settlement money into a traditional investment vehicle or financial institution like a local bank, the proceeds received from your interest-bearing account are taxable. On the other hand, the IRC does provide plaintiffs with the option to invest in a tax-exempt holding account or a structured settlement. It explicitly states that 100 percent of every structured settlement payment you receive will be exempt from federal and state income tax.

My family member has been injured and I will be receiving a portion of the settlement. Will I have to pay taxes on the settlement award?

If you are a “derivative claimant,” meaning a spouse, parent or child of a physically injured person, you will not be required to pay taxes on the money when you initially receive it. The IRC states that if your claim originates from physical injury or physical sickness suffered by another person, then all settlement money — again, aside from punitive damages — is viewed as an award due to physical injury, whether or not the person receiving the settlement money is the injured party.

Once I receive my settlement, what are my options?

Your net settlement proceeds are available to you in the form of a lump sum, unless there are restrictions placed within your settlement agreement. This lump sum is the remainder after attorney fees, case expenses, liens, and any other deductions from your settlement. You also have the option to receive your settlement proceeds in part, or in full paid to you over time. Prior to settlement, plaintiffs can elect to receive settlement payments over time instead of accepting a lump sum of money at once. Doing so may allow them to do the following:

  • Remain below the threshold of a higher tax bracket,
  • Pay less in taxes, and
  • Avoid losing the many deductions, credits and allowances that phase out with increased income.

This method of “spreading taxes” is also referred to as deferred compensation or income spreading, which in essence lowers the individual plaintiff’s annual taxable income. The process involves a one-time setup with a settlement planner to ensure compliance with the procedure outlined by the court involved in the litigation.

If you’re a plaintiff in litigation, Milestone Consulting can help you establish a personalized plan for your recovery.

 

 

ABOUT JOHN BAIR

John Bair has guided thousands of plaintiffs through the settlement process as co-founder of Milestone Consulting, LLC, a broad-based settlement planning and management firm. Milestone’s approach is comprehensive and future-focused. John’s team has guided thousands of clients by taking the time to understand the complexities of each case. They assess the best outcome and find the path that enables each client to manage their many needs. Read more about Milestone Consulting at http://milestoneseventh.com/.

 

If you’ve never filed a lawsuit before, hiring the right attorney for your case might seem like a daunting task. This infographic provides a few tips for narrowing your search and selecting a great lawyer.

choosing a personal injury lawyer

For more tips on getting the right legal representation, check out “Plaintiff 101: How to Find an Attorney Who is a Good Fit for Your Case.”

distracted driving apps

Image from TechCrunch

Users can now test out what is likely the most talked about feature of Apple’s newest iOS 11: Do Not Disturb While Driving.

When the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature is activated, the iPhone will withhold notifications whenever it’s connected to a moving car using either Bluetooth or a cable. The phone will also automatically respond to texts with a message telling the recipient that the user is driving and can’t respond at the moment. As Sarah Perez points out in a recent TechCrunch article, the new iOS tool isn’t meant “… to fully prevent texting or alerts while in a moving vehicle. Instead, it offers to clamp down on distractions at a system level in a way that Apple has never before offered.”

Rather, the point of the feature is to remind motorists to pay attention to the task of driving. “It’s all about keeping your eyes on the road,” Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said when introducing the feature at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June. “When you’re driving, you don’t need to respond to these kind of messages. In fact, you don’t need to see them.” Other functionalities, like music and GPS, will still work while the car is in motion.

Want to try out the Do Not Disturb While Driving before iOS 11 officially releases? Trusted Reviews offers a few easy steps to download the iOS 11 public beta 3 and beta 4 preview. If you do check out the new feature, let us know in the comments below what you think of it!

 

About John Bair

John Bair is an experienced settlement planner and financial consultant with a passion for ending distracted driving. As a frequent EndDD.org volunteer, he has spoken to audiences  around the country. To assist others in raising awareness, John has written numerous guides and articles about giving successful EndDD.org presentations in schools, business, and community settings. He is a proud board member of the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.enddd.org/.

 

This post is the first in a series titled “Taxable Settlements 101,” which looks at some notable cases in which plaintiffs were taxed on their settlement recovery. This post also offers insight into how plaintiffs can prevent reaching a higher tax bracket after settlement — and suffering the taxable burden as a result.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill began on April 20, 2010 on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven people were killed, and the U.S. government estimated the total oil discharge at 210 million gallons.

BP oil litigation

The people impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill brought claims against BP after suffering various devastating losses including illness, injuries, economic loss, and property damage. In 2012, they reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with BP. Unfortunately, plaintiffs who obtained a settlement recovery may not have realized that some of their compensation would go to the IRS. Many of those who did not establish a durable plan for their settlement were left paying way more in taxes than they had ever paid before.

Why did it happen? In short, the BP oil spill settlement was considered a “taxable settlement.” Not all lawsuit recoveries are taxable; for example, in most personal injury claims, states and the IRS cannot tax plaintiffs on settlement or verdict proceeds. The settlement recovery was taxable for plaintiffs in the BP litigation, however, and it had the potential to push them into a higher tax bracket — unless they planned accordingly. Come tax season, claimants without an appropriate financial plan had to pay more to the IRS.

What Can Plaintiffs Do to Avoid a Higher Tax Bracket?

Prior to settlement, plaintiffs can elect to receive settlement payments over time instead of accepting a lump sum of money at once. Doing so may allow them to do the following:

  1. Remain below the threshold of a higher tax bracket,
  2. Pay less in taxes, and
  3. Avoid losing the many deductions, credits and allowances that phase out with increased income.

This method of “spreading taxes” is also referred to as deferred compensation or income spreading, which in essence lowers the individual plaintiff’s annual taxable income. The process involves a one-time setup with a settlement planner to ensure compliance with the procedure outlined by the court involved in the litigation.

Tax planning is a foundation for wealth management. Business executives and others who earn substantial income use wealth management strategies to lower their taxable income. These people benefit from the knowledge of their experienced financial planners, but getting expert wealth management advice is not exclusively intended for the wealthy. Plaintiffs should do the same as settlement approaches to protect themselves and ensure their settlement is as beneficial as possible. Working closely with a comprehensive settlement planner will allow claimants to carefully review their options for income spreading over a few years.

Spreading taxes by negotiating a custom-tailored payout strategy is what settlement planning is all about. If you’re a plaintiff in litigation, Milestone Consulting can help you establish a personalized plan for your recovery.

 

 

About John Bair

John Bair has guided thousands of plaintiffs through the settlement process as co-founder of Milestone Consulting, LLC, a broad-based settlement planning and management firm. Milestone’s approach is comprehensive and future-focused. John’s team has guided thousands of clients by taking the time to understand the complexities of each case. They assess the best outcome and find the path that enables each client to manage their many needs. Read more about Milestone Consulting at http://milestoneseventh.com/.

 

Assisting victims of terrorism and their families is something very close to my heart, and my company and I do our part to support these efforts whenever we can. Since beginning this mission, Milestone Consulting has assisted thousands of families, including those affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Beirut Bombing of 1983, and more. In 2016, we received New York State approval to implement a plan to request insurance companies to waive commissions from life insurance policies or annuity contracts issued to the families of terrorist attack victims. This past March, I had the honor of traveling to Tanzania to give U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (USVSST) awards to victims of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombing in Dar Es Salaam. Right now, we’re following the story of what has been called “the largest terrorism-related civil forfeiture in history.”

USVSST

Last month, Southern District Judge Katherine Forrest ruled that the Alavi Foundation, which has an ownership stake in a Manhattan building and other properties, served as a front for the Iranian government. In addition to allowing the U.S. to seize the charity’s majority stake in the building through civil forfeiture, Judge Forrest’s 147-page ruling allows certain victims of state-sponsored terror attacks and their families to enforce judgments in their favor.

More specifically, the government plans to sell the $500+ million Fifth Avenue building owned by the Alavi Foundation and pass the forfeiture proceeds to the creditors. The jury awarded the victims and families turnover of the building and several other Alavi Foundation real estate holdings across the country.

Growing up in an Army household, graduating from West Point, and serving as an Army officer are experiences that have taught me the importance of lending a hand to my fellow Americans. I founded Milestone Consulting to work in a profession that helps people every day. We are proud to be the foremost experienced firm regarding terrorism recoveries in the nation, and we will continue to offer our assistance to victims and their families whenever possible.