Human Tragedies - And Triumphs
Why Choose Structured Settlements Over Lump Sum Payments?


A Look at the Human Costs for Some
Who &ldquoHit the Jackpot&rdquo With a Lump Sum Award
Large monetary judgments have become the most talked-about aspect of America&rsquos legal system.

However, this attention overlooks a crucial point: Is the injury victim really best served by receiving a large, lump-sum payment?

This is particularly important when an individual is mentally or physically incapacitated and requires expensive long-term care.

Many plaintiffs, especially the young and those unfamiliar with money management, are ill-equipped to handle the problems of large cash payments. テつ*Family members, existing friends and unsavory &ldquonew friends&rdquo can attach themselves to the newly enriched plaintiff &ndash with devastating consequences.

What follows are three real-life examples of people whose lives went tragically wrong twice: first in accidents and second in being unable to withstand the dangers that accompanied their financial windfalls.

(Note: The first two stories have been adapted from &ldquoFor Love Or Money&rdquo by Lee Slater that appeared in New Mobility.)

I. Money Couldn&rsquot Buy Love

In 1978, Scott Mickler was a Florida teenager who became a C4-5 quadriplegic after an auto accident. テつ*His 1983 settlement gave him $2 million, which he opted to receive in a single lump sum.

Mickler moved to North Carolina and hired a nurse. テつ*This nurse, who was soon to become his wife, later admitted under oath that at the time Mickler hired her, she was using illegal drugs. テつ*Shortly, Scott would be using those drugs too.

The two married in 1985. テつ*Then they started making withdrawals on Scott&rsquos bank account &ndash sometimes as much as $10,000 to $15,000 a week. テつ*His wife, according to testimony at her negligence trial, also began systematically shutting off direct contact between her husband and his family. テつ*Their housekeeper testified that Scott&rsquos phone calls to or from the house had to be made on the speakerphone so that his wife could monitor them.

Scott soon became estranged from his family and friends. テつ*He was wholly dependent on his wife, who had been informed in a letter from Paine Webber that expenses were depleting their financial reserves.

When paramedics from the Okeechobee Fire and Rescue Squad, answering a call, went to the Mickler&rsquos home in September 1990, they could not take Scott&rsquos vital signs. テつ*He was lying in excrement and his flesh was too gangrenous for an IV.

Soon after, he died at age 31. テつ*In 1995, his wife was convicted of abuse and neglect in the death of her husband.
II. Caught Up in the Drug Machine

At age 14, Carol Bitterman, a native of Georgia, received a doctor&rsquos injection that caused a reaction and made her paraplegic. テつ*She received $2 million cash as settlement.

At first, she seemed to have her life in order. テつ*She became a champion track and field athlete, establishing records that stood for more than a decade. テつ*

However, even at that time, she was casually using pills and marijuana. テつ*In 1981, at a track meet, her dealer introduced her to cocaine. テつ*Shortly, the dealer and his girlfriend had moved into Carol&rsquos house. テつ*That gave way to even bigger trouble when the dealer&rsquos supplier began to hone in on Carol. テつ*

The supplier and some of his allies soon moved into Carol&rsquos house, creating a distribution center for drugs. テつ*In the process, they isolated Carol from her family and friends. テつ*By 1985, she stayed in the back bedroom of her own house, sleeping on soiled sheets and forbidden to use her wheelchair.

That is how a visiting friend found her in 1988. テつ*The friend called police, who rescued her. テつ*For the next year, Carol was in and out of drug treatment centers.

Yet her immune system was weak. This former champion athlete died on an operating table at Piedmont Memorial Hospital. テつ*She was 36.
III. The Pitfalls of Investing

In 1973, Shirley Adams of Memphis, Tennessee gave birth to a daughter, Tiffany. テつ*Tiffany was born with brain damage, a condition that Ms. Adams maintained was the result of medical malpractice. テつ*Although mentally alert, Tiffany is physically handicapped and unable to speak clearly.

In 1980, Shirley and her husband received a cash settlement of $250,000. テつ*Despite the attorney&rsquos advice to invest this money prudently, Shirley says her husband put the money into his own construction company. テつ*

By the mid-1980s, the money to care for Tiffany was gone. テつ*In 1993, Shirley and her husband divorced. テつ*She receives no child support. テつ*

But the story does not end there. テつ*In 1987, Tiffany&rsquos wheelchair malfunctioned, causing it to roll into the street, where Tiffany suffered severe facial injuries.

This time, Ms. Adams insisted that the settlement from the wheelchair manufacturer be in the form of a structured settlement. テつ*

Today, Ms. Adams is convinced of the benefit structured settlements have brought to her life. テつ*&ldquoTaking care of Tiffany is a full-time job and requires constant attention, not to mention the financial need,&rdquo she says, &ldquoMy structured settlement protects Tiffany from other people completely taking advantage of her for the whole amount of the settlement.&rdquo

[This message was edited by seneca on Aug 13, 2002 at 05:06 PM.]