For paralegals, every day brings another opportunity to help clients, learn more about the law and tackle new challenges. Some of these challenges stem from changes in the legal profession, such as increasing demand for pre-settlement funding.
When a plaintiff represented by the law firm you work for applies for funding, your boss may ask you, the paralegal, to coordinate the application process with the funding company. Doing so may be relatively straightforward or an exercise in frustration depending on which funding company the plaintiff has chosen. Although you have no say in his or her selection, there are some things you do to expedite the process and protect the client’s interests.
This comprehensive guide provides tips to help paralegals facilitate the pre-settlement funding process, regardless of which company is involved. Specifically, it will address:
- What information to share with the client prior to the application process
- How to effectively coordinate the application process
- Helping the client get a reasonable deal
- The importance of safeguarding confidential information
Information to share with clients prior to the application process
As a paralegal, you cannot provide any information that could be construed as legal advice. However, there is certain general information about pre-settlement funding that you can share with clients prior to the application process. For example, you may ask if they have considered or pursued other financial options. This is because pre-settlement funding is typically viewed as a last resort due to potential fees and costs. Be sure they are aware of and understand how these fees and costs are assessed before they apply for pre-settlement funding.
Effective coordination of the application process
Several factors may disqualify an applicant for pre-settlement funding. Although they may vary, having a general idea of what they are is key to effective coordination of the application process. In particular, it will allow you to spot them quickly and advise the potential funder accordingly. This will save everyone time and effort in the long run.
Some of the most common reasons for disqualification are:
- Prior funding. A lot of pre-settlement funding providers would rather not accept cases that other companies have previously funded. Therefore, it is important to let the representative from the pre-settlement funding company know about any liens from another company as soon as possible.
- Soft-tissue injuries. Pre-settlement funding companies often reject applications submitted by plaintiffs with these injuries. However it is not always the case. To find out if the company your client has selected will do so, inform its underwriter about your client’s most significant diagnosed injury.
- Place of residence. Some states do not allow pre-settlement funding and various companies do business in different states. Therefore, you should be sure to let a prospective provider know where your client lives.
- Case status. Some companies don’t want to provide pre-settlement funding if the lawsuit has not been filed. Therefore, it is important to let them know whether or not this has been done.
Safeguarding sensitive and confidential information
While facilitating the application process, it may be necessary to provide some case details and medical documents to pre-settlement funding companies for your client. This must be done carefully, and you should be careful to never share privileged information with any 3rd party. Here are a few steps you can take to protect your clients’ privacy:
- HIPPA consent form. Ask the pre-settlement funding company and the client to sign a HIPPA form.
- Verify the client-and-funder contact. Always confirm with the client that he or she has applied with the company that’s requesting the paperwork. This is essential because some providers will contact law firms prior to consulting plaintiffs.
- Verify status as brokers or direct funders. Be sure to establish if the company you’re dealing with is a broker or a direct funder. As direct funders, they will likely be the only ones viewing the documents you send them. If they’re pre-settlement funding brokers, a lot of people or institutions may have access to the documents in question.
Oasis provides pre-settlement funding, also known as consumer litigation funding, to its customers through different products depending on their state of residence or cause of action. Many consumers will be provided pre-settlement funding in the form of a purchase agreement, which assigns a portion of the pending proceeds from their legal claim. Other consumers, such as those in CO, IL, MN, MO, SC, WI and some OK residents, will be offered a funding in the form of a pre-settlement loan, sometimes referred to as a lawsuit loan. These transactions have important differences, therefore, consumers should carefully review and be aware of the type of transaction that is offered to them by any funding company.