An Assessment of the Available Current Education for the Settlement Planning Process

Following the Spring 2019 National Structured Settlement Trade Association Annual Conference, The Chronicle promised a series of blog posts to evaluate whether NSSTA needed to re-think and re-design its educational programming and educational marketing to strategically position structured settlement annuities as the core product within personal injury settlement planning.

An introductory post asked “whether and how does NSSTA educate its members about the settlement planning market? And concluded: market analysis” represents one of the best opportunities for NSSTA to help its members understand a changing market, transition their business models and grow their structured settlement annuity premium.

In today’s blog we’ll explore whether and how NSSTA educates its members about the personal injury settlement planning process and as a point of comparison we’ll share the approach used by the Society of Settlement Planners’ (SSP) educational programs and resources.

As the following 2019 Educational Curriculum indicates, unlike market analysis, NSSTA has offered its members a commendable “settlement planning process” syllabus that specifically addresses “settlement planning” and provides a relatively comprehensive and well-matched set of offerings.

NSSTA CSSC

  • Settlement and Assignment Language Documents
  • Negotiations
  • A Case Study in Lead Paint Poisoning

NSSTA ANNUAL

  • Settlement Planning: A Holistic Approach
  • Implications of Settling Claimant’s Bankruptcy for Negotiating and Administering Structured Settlements – NSSTA Annual

NSSTA FALL

  • Achieving Settlements in Complex Cases
  • What a Care Manager Can Do for Your Case Load

Although divided between its CSSC certification program and its twice-a-year member educational conferences, NSSTA’s settlement planning process curriculum establishes a solid foundation by highlighting traditional NSSTA educational strengths such as language documents; negotiations; complex cases. The Lead Paint Case Study and Claimant’s Bankruptcy presentations continue to add highly specialized, yet extremely valuable, process knowledge. NSSTA’s introduction of the “settlement planning” topic itself and the role of the “Care Manager” to its educational programming will help expand NSSTA members’ view of the scope of the settlement process and the role of the structured settlement annuity. 

Assuming a NSSTA member attended all three of the above programs (as this author did), that NSSTA member received a comprehensive and well-balanced “settlement planning process” education.

By comparison, SSP provided its members with the following presentations about the personal injury settlement planning process during the SSP 2019 Annual Conference.

  • Building Blocks for an Effective Settlement Plan
  • Lien Resolution for Settlement Planners
  • How to Present a Settlement Plan
  • Case Management and Life Care Planning
  • Fiduciary Standards/ SSP Practice Standards / Best Practices

The final SSP presentation included a detailed review of the SSP “Settlement Planning Practice Standards” which can be summarized as follows:

  1. Acknowledging the client and the settlement planner’s duty
  2. Defining the scope of the engagement including making required disclosures of material conflicts of interest and details of the planner's compensation.
  3. Defining the client's goals, needs and priorities relevant to scope of engagement.
  4. Obtaining information and documents.
  5. Analyzing information to match client's goals, needs and priorities with resources.
  6. Considering options and developing recommendations.
  7. Communicating recommendations to enable client to make informed decisions.
  8. Mutually agreeing on implementation responsibilities consistent with scope of assignment.
  9. Recommending appropriate products and services
  10. Mutually defining monitoring responsibilities.

Following its annual conference, SSP has also sponsored a series of “case study” webinars showcasing the settlement planning best practices of some of its leading members.

Conclusion: As personal injury settlement planning evolves into a profession, with structured settlement annuities representing a core, strategic product, the planning process requires continuing study and education to confirm and disseminate industry standards and best practices.  Both NSSTA and SSP appear to be providing their members will valuable and expanding educational resources.