In their latest report, Social Security and Medicare trustees project that the funds for the two government programs will be tapped out in a few years.

Here are a few important points from the report:

  • The combined trust funds for Social Security will be empty by 2034
  • The trust fund for Medicare Part A will run dry by 2026
  • Medicare Part B and Part D will be financed in full indefinitely, but their costs are scheduled to grow substantially

Social Security will only be able to pay 79 percent of the benefits promised to retirees and disabled beneficiaries in 2034. Worse off is Medicare Part A, which by 2026 will only be able to pay 91 percent of its promised benefits.

will Medicare run out

To save Social Security and Medicare from running dry for decades longer than the trustees predict, the programs can do the following:

  • Raise employees’ and employers’ payroll taxes paid into the programs, and/or
  • Cut benefits for some or all beneficiaries

At Milestone, many of our clients are victims of catastrophic injuries that require the financial assistance of needs-based government programs. Without Social Security and Medicare, many individuals and their families will be either strapped for funds or have to do without the things this income pays for, such as disability-related expenses and hospital and nursing home costs for seniors.

Congress needs to make a decision soon, or it will be difficult to put Social Security and Medicare back on track to help beneficiaries the way they promised.

At Milestone, we’re all about helping people live their best lives through smart financial planning after settlement. Since we started the company in 2012, our team has worked with thousands of plaintiffs, their family members, and lawyers. A lot has changed since then, but our mission remains the same: secure our clients’ futures by finding the path that enables them to manage their needs now and for as long as possible.

When Milestone was formed, we created a logo comprised of tick marks, to symbolize the different milestones or markers along someone’s life. Our team always thinks of a catastrophic injury as a turning point in an individual’s life – and it is our goal to help guide them through that defining life moment and help them move forward. We felt our tick mark logo represented the multiple milestones in one’s life, and we hoped it could encourage plaintiffs to envision their world once they moved through the litigation that so often follows tragedy.

Even though we liked the tick marks, we felt it was time for a brand refresh. As Milestone has evolved and expanded our team and our scope of settlement services, we wanted something stronger and more substantive to represent our firm. We worked with the acclaimed agency The Martin Group to develop a new logo that is indicative of an arch. The arch concept took on multiple meanings for us, all of which we felt were accurate symbols of the work Milestone does and the values we hold.  

Milestone Consulting

An arch is a strong, foundational element that has been incorporated as a structural support since the start of time (think of the ancient Roman arches). It can also be representative of a bridge, a structure that closes the gap between two sides and brings someone from one place to the next. Lastly, an arch can also be interpreted as a gateway, an opening or entrance way to the next milestone in our clients’ lives. It is future- and goal-oriented, connecting today with tomorrow.

While the color scheme is not a total departure from our original Milestone green, it nods to the previous color scheme while giving it a bolder, more distinct, refresh. Green represents growth and new life, which is why we’ve always gravitated toward it for the work that we do. The newly-incorporated mint is calming, and the white accents help make everything seem a little more three-dimensional.

Like in everything else we do, we took on this project with intention and focus, and we worked hard to find a solution that we felt was tailor-made for us. The second phase of our brand refresh will be the Milestone website.

Our goal is to change the plaintiff funding industry. But it’s clear we can’t do this alone.

The Bairs FoundationAt the Bairs Foundation, we have funded nearly 150 plaintiffs and their families with a total of almost $1 million. However, this is only 44% of the total requests for funding we have received. It is very clear there is a huge need for what we’re doing in this industry. As a civil justice advocate, I’m sure you understand.

We need your help to continue our mission and expand our reach. We are launching a crowdfunding campaign and ask that you show your support by contributing.

For more information and to help our foundation assist more plaintiffs in need, please visit:

https://www.classy.org/campaign/revolutionizing-funding-
for-plaintiffs/c181100

If you have seen the awful effects lenders have on a client, a friend, or a family member, you understand how crucial it is to keep this alternative option in existence. Your donation will help the Bairs Foundation provide individuals and families with the capital they need to go the distance with their pursuit of justice.

Please help us amplify the work we’re doing by sharing our message in the graphic to the right. Together, we can change the landscape of non-recourse plaintiff funding.

About John Bair
Co-Founder of the Bairs Foundation

John Bair has guided thousands of plaintiffs through the settlement process. Motivated by a desire to assist others in protecting their financial well-being, John and his wife Amy established the Bairs Foundation. At seven percent simple interest, the organization provides the financial assistance families need during litigation. Read more at http://www.bairsfoundation.org/.

 

After the $7.8 billion settlement with BP for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill concluded, some plaintiffs found out too late that they had to pay taxes on their compensation. Because the lump sum of income pushed many of them into a higher tax bracket, those who did not establish a durable plan prior to settlement were left paying way more in taxes than they had ever paid before — and that’s on top of suffering losses including illness, injuries, economic loss, and property damage.

spreading taxes after settlementThis situation frequently happens when a plaintiff does not have adequate information about financial planning prior to settlement. That’s because as a taxpayer, any monetary award you receive is assumed to be gross income and is taxable. A settlement recovery that pushes claimants into higher tax brackets forces them to retain less of their recovery.

This rule does not apply to all types of cases. If your settlement is due to a physical injury, sickness, or wrongful death, for example, you will not need to pay tax on your settlement when you initially receive it. On the other hand, cases involving sexual harassment, discrimination, fraud, whistleblower situations, and intellectual property are taxable.

In a previous post, we answer the following questions about settlement and taxes:

  • Is the settlement I am about to receive taxable?
  • If I invest my settlement money, will it be taxed?
  • 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?
  • Once I receive my settlement, what are my options?

If you’re approaching settlement, having this background knowledge is key. A comprehensive settlement planning firm can then explain your options.

Tax and Income Spreading

To ease what could be a staggering tax burden, plaintiffs may take settlement payments out over time as opposed to accepting a lump sum. Doing so reduces their taxes by remaining below the threshold for many deductions, credits and/or allowances that phase out with increased income. This method of “spreading taxes” is also referred to as deferred compensation or income spreading.

Because the settlement process is voluntary, this one-time tax planning opportunity is part of the resolution of a claim and must be made prior to settlement. As a plaintiff, the sooner you speak with a settlement planning expert, the sooner you’ll have peace of mind that you’ll get to keep as much of your settlement recovery as possible and reap the benefits of it long into the future.

Seeing the legal profession as a “boys’ club” is going out of style fast. Firms are increasingly waking up to the idea that leadership and equal pay should be based on merit rather than gender. As such, many women and men in law are working harder than ever to elevate the people who deserve it most. It feels like a lot has been happening recently to close the gender gap and increase female leadership — but how do the numbers add up?

In her forthcoming second study on gender disparity in the legal profession, Dana Alvare found that the statistics have actually been holding fairly steady. About 24 percent of plaintiff-side leadership roles in federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) went to women in 2016 and 2017. That number is down slightly from 2015, during which Alvare noted that women landed nearly 28 percent of leadership roles.

women leadership in law

While the past two years have indeed seen fewer women as leaders in MDLs, it’s important to note that the beginning of the decade saw far lower percentages. The newest statistics are “… still a deficit, but better than 2011-2014,” when women had less than 17 percent of all plaintiffs’ MDL leadership appointments, Alvare said.

Factors contributing to the gender gap include unconscious bias that prevents mentoring and structural barriers that keep women from getting needed leadership experience.

Alvare is a researcher with the Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law. She is also a member of Women En Mass, an annual meeting of the who’s-who among female mass tort attorneys. The event offers an outstanding networking opportunity and focuses on issues that affect professional women.

As the Women En Mass 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.” Research like Alvare’s two studies are an important way to map the growth and momentum of female leadership in law. They will surely continue to shed light on the progress and promote more action in the field.

Everything is suddenly different when a person sustains a catastrophic injury. It’s not just the victim whose life is altered; his or her family and close friends will experience (at varying degrees) the changes that stem from that person’s new needs and possible limitations. When you add a personal injury settlement into the mix, questions will naturally arise about its longevity and finding the most beneficial allocations possible.

becoming a guardian

Sometimes, the best action to take is to become a legal guardian for a person in this boat, particularly for those who are no longer able to care for themselves. A legally-appointed guardian, often a trusted family member, is responsible for making informed decisions that are in the best interest of the injured individual.

However, making decisions on behalf of someone else can be emotionally and mentally demanding, especially in cases in which an injury has completely altered the way of life for the individual. If you’re considering becoming a loved one’s guardian, take a look below at the basic responsibilities you will most likely take on in this role.

Initial and Ongoing Assessments: At the beginning of the arrangement, the guardian needs to file an inventory of the incapacitated person’s assets. He or she will also need to file an annual report through the office where the original qualification guardianship documents were filed. The purpose of these annual assessments is to determine the necessity for the continuation of the guardianship. Still, in situations in which individuals have suffered a catastrophic injury, it’s likely that the guardianship will continue until the death of the incapacitated individual if the task is handled appropriately.

Guardianship Bond: The court will usually require the guardian to provide a guardianship bond, which acts as insurance against any potential mismanagement of the incapacitated individual’s assets.

Regular Responsibilities: The guardian will be responsible for marshalling, protecting, and obtaining appraisals of the person’s property. He or she will receive income for the estate and make appropriate disbursements. The guardian would also be required to report the status of the estate to the court and obtain court approval prior to selling any assets.

Guardianship of a Person: If the injured individual is a beneficiary of government programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid, his or her guardian must ensure that health care decisions are made in accordance with those programs’ regulations. The incapacitated individual must be allowed to live in the least restrictive environment possible, which in some cases might require movement to an assisted living facility.

Guardianship of an Estate: If appointed the guardian of an estate, the guardian is responsible for managing both real property (real estate, acreage, etc.) and personal property (bank accounts, insurance policies, stocks, bonds, investments, vehicles, etc.). The guardian typically has to open a guardianship account, separate from any property belonging to the guardian, for the deposit of these funds and must maintain a detailed record of any expenditures.

Guardianship is just one option when a person sustains a catastrophic injury and can longer care for himself or herself. Cases should be evaluated on an individual basis, as there are other options that may be a better fit. If you’re exploring options for a loved one, consider speaking with an experienced settlement planner to discuss a plan that will protect his or her assets and government benefits while maintaining the highest possible quality of life.

 

If your client’s personal injury lawsuit is coming to an end and settlement is on the horizon, establishing a concrete plan for his or her financial recovery is a critical next step. Each plaintiff’s individual needs will differ, and there are many strategies to explore. That’s why many lawyers and their clients work with an experienced, comprehensive settlement planner to come up with a customized approach. No matter the plan, the goal is the same: to meet the client’s needs now and as far into the future as possible.

For many, establishing a trust with settlement proceeds is a helpful component to a durable settlement plan. One lesser discussed type of trust is the discretionary support trust. There are specific scenarios that benefit from this choice and some critical things to know.

When talking about a beneficiary’s right to spend money from his or her trust, trusts are typically either classified as “mandatory” or “discretionary.” If the trustee MUST distribute funds for the beneficiary’s specific needs, the trust is considered mandatory. On the other hand, a discretionary trust allows the trustee the choice to pay for items benefiting the disabled individual. These decisions are up to the discretion of the trustee. In other words, the trustee can have absolute management control over the trust.

Why would you want that option for your client? A discretionary support trust could be the right decision for a disabled person who does not (and will not) receive needs-based benefits from government programs like Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. In those situations, the trustee is not focusing solely on distributing payments for “non-covered” expenses to maintain eligibility for benefits, so there is more wiggle room in what he or she can purchase with the money in the trust.

Even though the trustee will have more power over the distributions, a settlement planner can identify in the agreement the minimal distributions a trustee must make to provide basic support to the disabled individual — while still giving the trustee broad discretionary powers over the money. That way, the trust beneficiary will be guaranteed coverage for basic needs like food, clothing, and medical care, but the trustee still maintains control. The terms can be customized for each beneficiary to ensure the best quality of life possible.

Plaintiffs and their attorneys benefit from speaking with an experienced settlement planner who is well-versed in establishing the right kind of trust for each individual. If your client is approaching settlement, I welcome you to contact my firm, Milestone Consulting. Our team can help you and your client make important financial decisions for the future.

It’s that time of year again: the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers. As we fire up the grills and dust of the bocce ball set, we must also do our due diligence to help prevent unnecessary crashes, injuries, and deaths on our nation’s roads.

driving risks for teens

Every year, the average number of deadly teen driver crashes climbs 15 percent during the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when compared to the rest of the year. The spike happens because teens are out of school for the summer and on the road more, explained Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. During this time, drivers ages 16 to 17 are nearly four times as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly crash, according to AAA Foundation’s statistics.

“Parents are the front line of defense for keeping our roads safer this summer,” the AAA Director of State Relations said in a press release. “It all starts with educating teens about safety on the road and modeling good behavior, like staying off the phone and buckling your safety belt.”

Each of us can do our part to help prevent vehicle accidents during this dangerous time of the year. Consider the following tips:

  • Be a role model for safe driving for younger drivers.
  • Remember to share the road, buckle up, and mind the speed limits
  • Report aggressive driving (when it’s safe to do so). Some states like New Jersey have a dedicated line to call.
  • Drive distraction-free every time you’re behind the wheel.
  • Hold yourself and your loved ones responsible for good driver behavior by signing a Safe Driving Agreement.

AAA’s TeenDriving.AAA.com offers a variety of additional tools to help prepare parents and teens for the summer driving season. We wish you safe travels this summer and always!

Our purpose for founding the Bairs Foundation was to give plaintiffs a fair funding alternative when they need financial help during litigation. We couldn’t sit idly by while the non-recourse industry, notorious for their staggering interest rates, continued to profit from families in need. In addition to shaking things up with our 7% simple interest model, we support a regulatory environment that brings transparency, disclosure and fairness on contracting to the consumers of this type of litigation loan.

new laws about litigation loans

A recent move by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) highlights how trial lawyers are vulnerable to attack by leaving the litigation finance industry unregulated. On May 10, Grassley introduced the Litigation Funding Transparency Act of 2018, which would require third-party litigation funders to disclose whether they advanced money to class action plaintiffs under an agreement that would allow the companies to collect interest on the recovery.

When funding companies are required to be transparent, Grassley argues, they also have to be accountable. “Because the existence and terms of these agreements lack transparency, the impact they are having on our civil justice system is not fully known,” he said. “It’s vitally important to our civil justice system that litigation decisions aren’t unduly influenced by third parties.”

While increased transparency sounds like a no-brainer, it is possible that this bill may jeopardize the future of litigation funding. It’s one more way to regulate the availability of plaintiff funding, a necessary option to help plaintiffs see their lawsuit through to its end. The changes proposed in this bill could end up being a deterrent for funding, and that would be advantageous for defendants and corporations with deep pockets, but harmful to their opponents (plaintiffs).

This bill follows in the footsteps of a 2017 mandate by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which requires the automatic disclosure of third-party funding agreements in proposed class-action lawsuits. Also last year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 28 other organizations sent a letter requesting an amendment to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Their aim is to bring litigation funders out of “the shadows” and to identify “a real party in interest that may be steering a plaintiff’s litigation strategy and settlement decisions.”

As an outlier in the industry, we understand the need for some regulation. For most attorneys today, they feel that litigation funding is a sketchy field. For-profit, non-recourse companies frequently take advantage of plaintiffs who are at the end of their financial rope, often tacking on staggering compound interest to their advances. Transparency and fairness is needed.

It’s critical that the civil justice community finds a way to balance giving plaintiffs some consumer protection around these agreements, with access to funding that is so often required in order to make justice a reality for plaintiffs.

 

The term “forced arbitration” has been in the news a lot recently. At the end of 2017, Microsoft announced that it eliminate forced arbitration clauses from its employment agreements. Last week, ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft made a similar move. If you’re in the dark about why the change matters, here’s the scoop.

Uber Lyft forced arbitration

Arbitration agreements typically state an employee does not have the right to bring a claim against his or her employer outside a private arbitration system. In other words, the employee waives his or her right to sue in public court. So, by taking these clauses out of agreements, company employees will be permitted to take sexual harassment cases to court rather than having no choice but to handle them privately.

Why Did Arbitration Even Start?

Arbitration was initially intended to provide an efficient method of ending disagreements out of court by having an unbiased arbitrator listen to both sides and make a decision. It modeled what the parties might expect in court. With forced arbitration, though, it’s rarely the fair process that it was originally intended to be. There are several issues with forced arbitration:

  • Corporate control: The corporation can determine who the arbitrator will be, what the rules of arbitration are, what the location for arbitration will be, and how the arbitrator will be paid.
  • Private proceedings: Arbitration, unlike litigation, is not guided by any legal protections and is a private process. There is no requirement for an arbitrator to be trained, and there are no grounds for public review of an arbitration decision.
  • Legal protections are null: Remember the laws that protect Americans from discrimination based on sex, age, race, and disability? If the case goes to forced arbitration, those protections are non-existent.
  • Prohibitive costs: Arbitration can be a costly process for consumers; it is often expensive enough to prevent consumers from taking action.

Although it has been considered a dispute resolution process, arbitration is often imposed as a condition of employment. No employee is legally required to accept an arbitration clause, but doing so is often a condition to being hired or receiving an employment-related benefit. That’s where the “forced” part comes in.

Immediately after Uber and Lyft announced their move to eliminate forced arbitration, many people were quick to point out that they’re not quite doing enough to protect victims. An article in the LA Times notes that the companies are still denying people the right to join others in class actions. They also continue to require people to arbitrate disputes that do not involve sexual assault or harassment.

They may not be perfect, but the changes are a step in the right direction. Hopefully, these actions by big businesses will gain momentum in affording victims the options they deserve to seek justice.