Compared with the structured settlement primary market, which was characterized by continuing sales declines in 2012, the related settlement planning market appears to have experienced growth and vitality in 2012.
The primary evidence of this growth and vitality consisted of the increasing number of educational conferences addressing settlement planning topics during 2012. These included:
- Society of Settlement Planners (SSP) Annual Meeting
- Risk Settlement Planning Practicum
- Academy of Special Needs Planners (ASNP) Annual Meeting
- Qualified Settlement Fund Symposium
- Various National Academy of Elder Law Attorney (NAELA) Conferences - of which S2KM attended the 2012 Ohio NAELA Unprogram.
One of the challenges for measuring the growth of the settlement planning market is the lack of market metrics. For example, despite continuing market inquiries, S2KM has been unable to identify reliable national market metrics for qualified settlement funds, special needs trusts, settlement trusts, or Medicare set-aside arrangements.
Towers Watson Studies
The most valuable market research for settlement planning S2KM has identified has been the Annual Studies of United States Tort Costs published by Towers Watson (formerly Towers Perrin) since 1985. These studies:
- Calculate tort costs resulting from five insured plus uninsured business lines: 1) commercial multi-peril; 2) medical malpractice; 3) product liability; 4) other liability; and 5) commercial auto.
- Exclude: 1) no-fault auto insurance; 2) property coverages; 3) workers compensation; 4) certain extraordinary (one time) costs.
- In 2002, Towers Watson also translated overall tort costs for 2001 into the following categories and percentages: 1) administrative costs (21%); 2) defense costs (14%); plaintiff attorneys (19%); economic loss (22%) and non-economic loss (24%). Towers Perrin discontinued this portion of its analysis in 2002. It was "devilishly difficult" according to Russ Sutter, a Towers Watson principal and actuary who directs their annual tort cost studies, "primarily because we lack reliable information from plaintiff attorneys". These percentages therefore represented Tower Watson's "best estimate" in 2002.
Based upon Towers Watson's most recent 2011 Annual Study and utilizing Tower Watson's 2002 "best estimate" of payout percentages, S2KM estimates, that at least since 2006, more than $160 billion of United States tort costs annually have represented payments to injury victims and their attorneys.
Settlement Planning Issues
Among many settlement planning issues, S2KM viewed the following as the most strategically important during 2012:
- The evolutionary relationship between structured settlements and settlement planning;
- Comparing these two business models;
- Improving settlement planning by expanding structured settlements;
- What we have learned about the settlement planning market;
- Settlement planning tax challenges - including stress-induced physical ailments;
- How the Affordable Care Act (ACA) impacts settlement planning;
- How states are reforming Medicaid programs to address budgetary shortfalls and the ACA;
- Whether a standard of practice exists for using Medicare set-aside arrangements in liability cases;
- The application of product suitability standards to settlement plans funded with structured settlements;
- The impact of Dodd-Frank's uniform fiduciary standard on settlement planning.
Additional post in S2KM's blog series: "Structured Settlements in 2012":
- Part 1 - Primary market
- Part 2 - Settlement planning
- Part 3 - Secondary market
- Part 4 - Executive Life of New York