After the Settlement: A Guide for Personal Injury Clients
“Mind the gap.” You’ve probably seen this type of warning before. It alerts you that there is a potential hazard - a void - on your path.
Stepping over the gap or finding a way around it can be tricky, especially if you aren’t aware that you’re approaching it.
At Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers, we’ve identified an information gap that far too many people find themselves falling into after they’ve secured a settlement for themselves or for a loved one. Rather than simply warning people about it, we decided to take on a project to fill this information gap, once and for all.
In this blog post, I outline our efforts to create a guide that highlights, addresses and explains critical steps that certain personal injury claimants must take as their case comes to a conclusion. Although designed as a resource for our own clients, anyone involved in a personal injury claim who begins to hear terms such as “guardian,” “management plan” or “passing accounts” will benefit from a better understanding of what is required after the settlement.
Full-Circle Client Care.
At Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers, we frequently speak about our commitment to something that we call full-circle client care: from the moment that we meet a prospective client, we try to take a holistic view of their needs.
Our law firm’s primary professional duty is to provide sound legal advice and high-quality legal representation to clients who need assistance with a variety of personal injury cases and disability claims.
When a client (or their loved one) has been seriously injured, however, legal advocacy is only one component of what they need to begin the healing process. As such, our client liaisons often connect people to other resources and peer support systems that could help them on their journey to recovery. Moreover, Gluckstein Lawyers also contributes time and money to various disability groups whose work ensures people with disabilities can live their best life possible.
You might think that our full-circle care would end naturally once a case is settled or a final decision is reached. But even when a client becomes a “former client”, we hope they will stay part of our extended Gluckstein family; whenever possible, we try to keep in touch to see how our former clients are doing in the next stage of their lives.
Life after a settlement can bring about certain challenges, particularly if a client (who is a minor or otherwise ”under disability”) obtains funds through a settlement or court award. As we prepare clients for post-settlement responsibilities and requirements, we try to incorporate not only what we’ve learned through our own past clients’ feedback, but also what non-clients (who we’ve met through our engagement in and with the larger disability community) tell us about their experience.
It became clear to us that, sadly, some people found themselves wholly unprepared for what was to come. Others, who did have some understanding of the post-settlement process, shared that they wished they had considered certain things when creating their court-mandated management plan. It was only with the benefit of hindsight that they discovered they could have done something differently.
To help share this wealth of accumulated knowledge, a group of lawyers, law clerks and client liaisons at Gluckstein decided to create a guide for people who were about to open a new post-settlement chapter in their lives.
Planning and Brainstorming.
As the parent of a child who sustained a preventable birth injury that caused a brain injury resulting in a significant disability, I have been through a personal injury lawsuit and was appointed as my son Maclain’s guardian for property.
As his guardian, I also helped to create a management plan for his structured settlement and have experienced several rounds of what’s called “passing accounts” - a process where the Office of the Children’s Lawyer reviews all expenses relating to Maclain’s accounts and determines whether these expenses are justified according to the management plan.
Unless a personal injury lawyer has direct knowledge and experience with this process (perhaps having a loved one who has gone through it), this aspect of the personal injury journey is not one they would necessarily hear much about unless they made an effort to keep in touch with past clients. Sharing my own experience and lessons learned as a parent and guardian who has been through a medical negligence often gave the lawyers I work with insight and anecdotes that they could pass along to their current clients.
For example, my son was 9 years old when we created his management plan. If we had a crystal ball that showed what life would look like for him at age 13 or 16, we would have probably carved out a line item for video games as entertainment expenses.
The socializing that Maclain is able to do with other online gamers has been critical to helping him overcome a sense of isolation - particularly when COVID-19 closed many extracurricular activities he enjoyed. However, when you’re so focussed on meeting present-day needs, it can be difficult to take a step back and think of all the directions your child’s life could take and plan contingencies accordingly.
Similarly, “Post-Resource Guide” team member Janet Lebeau shared the story of a client she knew from another firm, who had become her close friend. Without being prepared for what the passing accounts process entailed, Janet’s friend described her experience justifying expenses with the Office of the Children’s Lawyer as feeling adversarial. She said she felt as if they were questioning her judgement as a parent.
Other people who have shared their experiences passing accounts reported immense stress when the Office of the Children’s Lawyer refused to approve a significant expense they had made for their child. They were shocked to learn that they may need to pay out of pocket for these expenses and/or be forced to sue their own child to recover this money.
With Gluckstein lawyers Jan Marin and Jessica Golosky on board to provide legal information on post-settlement undertakings, we knew we could make an important contribution to better inform people about a frequently misunderstood aspect of personal injury cases.
What’s In The Guide?
Our meetings to discuss the project and share our individual knowledge helped us iron out what we collectively wanted to see in the end result.
“We wanted to make this guide as succinct, readable and relatable as possible,” says Jan Marin. “That meant compiling information and insight into this process from both a lawyer’s perspective and a client’s perspective and carefully considering how to communicate it in a way that was useful for our intended audience.”
“Personal injuries are personal,” adds Jessica Golosky. “Each case and each client is unique, so when we discussed whether we should include a sample management plan in the guide itself, we determined that it would probably not have benefitted many people.”
“What goes into a management plan depends so much on the age of the injured person, their needs, and the amount of compensation their case settles for,” Golosky explains. “We needed to provide general information, but we also tried to note instances in the process when people could or should seek out additional information or advice from their personal injury lawyer, an estate lawyer, or an accountant.”
The final guide, which can be accessed here, includes:
- key terms in the guardianship process;
- the steps involved in post-settlement planning;
- the roles and responsibilities of those involved in guardianships (including third party lawyers and government organizations);
- an explanation of structured settlements;
- how management plans are created;
- what’s needed during passing of accounts; and,
- advice from other guardians.
“When we spoke to people who have gone through passing accounts, we found they were eager to share what they had learned,” explains Janet Lebeau. “Making life easier for people who follow in your footsteps can be gratifying. Clients who receive this guide will learn some valuable tips from people who have been there before. It will help to demystify the process.”
A Client-Centred Firm.
When you or a loved one sustains a serious personal injury, it may feel as though one chapter of your life has ended and you’re beginning the next one with many unknowns.
Hopefully, you will be able to draw on a strong support network of family, friends and loved ones as you write the newest chapter in the story of your life. Whatever your support network looks like, there will always room for new additions.
As legal advocates and representatives, Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers has a reputation for treating our clients as we treat our own family. If we can assist you during your recovery, we would be honoured to join your team. And, with publications such as our Post-Settlement Resource Guide, we are determined to help you start future chapters in your life with confidence.
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