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Judiciary committee OKs bill to beef up protections against predatory insurance settlements

Suppose you are injured in a car crash, and an insurance company offers you a settlement to take care of your medical needs for the rest of your life.

But then you are approached by a company that will give you a lump-sum cash payment right away instead of smaller payments the insurance company proposes to spread out over years.

These are often predatory companies that lure vulnerable, financially desperate, people to accept offers that are not in their best financial interests, says Rep. Erin Koegel (DFL-Spring Lake Park).

She sponsors HF3768, which would more tightly regulate these businesses and protect injury victims.

The House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee approved the bill 17-0 Tuesday and sent it to the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee.

The bill would strengthen protections outlined in a 1999 law regulating “structured settlements” — offers made by companies to individuals who are negotiating personal injury settlements with insurance companies.

The trouble with lump-sum offers, Koegel said, is they tempt vulnerable people, often in desperate financial situations, to accept a fraction of what they would be entitled to if they accepted payments over a lifetime.

These settlements can be 25% or even lower than what a person may ultimately be entitled to, said Koegel.

Under existing law, the two sides appearing before a judge asking to approve a structured settlement are the injured person and the company offering the settlement, she said.

The bill would add an independent party to the courtroom mix, namely an “evaluator” who could be appointed by a judge “to make an independent assessment and advise the court whether the financial terms of the proposed transfer agreement are fair and reasonable, and whether the transfer is in the best interests of the payee and the payee's dependents.”

Sen. Paul Utke (R-Park Rapids) sponsors the companion, SF3636, which awaits action by the Senate Civil Law and Data Practices Policy Committee.

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