Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Infant Deaths Prompt Safety Commission Warning About Sling Carriers

After fourteen (14) deaths associated with sling-style infant carriers, twelve (12) of which involved babies under four (4) months old, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission ("CPSC") is cautioning parents about using infant slings.

Slings pose two (2) different types of baby suffocation hazards.

First, because of weak neck muscles during the first few months of life, babies are unable to control their heads and the sling's fabric can press against the nose and mouth, block breathing, and suffocate a baby within a minute.

Second, where a sling keeps the infant in a curled position bending the chin toward the chest, airways are restricted limiting the oxygen supply suffocating the baby and preventing cries for help.

Further, because many of the babies who died in slings were a low birth weight twin, born prematurely, or had breathing issues, parents of preemies, twins, babies in fragile health and those with low weight are urged to use extra care and consult pediatricians before using slings.

Slings were recently added to the "infant products requiring a mandatory standard" list and the CPSC recommends that the infant's face is not covered and kept visible to the sling's wearer.

Further, if nursing in a sling, change the baby's position after feeding so the infants head is facing up and clear of the sling and the mother's body.

Structured Settlements in Personal Injury Cases

You just achieved a sizable personal injury settlement or court award.

While receiving the funds in a “lump sum” sound appealing, having the monies distributed in a “structured settlement” often makes more sense.

What is a Structured Settlement

Any personal injury settlement or court award you achieve is reduced by costs associated with a legal action including:
○Attorneys' fees and costs advanced by the lawyer;
○Unpaid costs for treatment resulting from injury; and
○Medical and related costs paid by your insurance carrier.

After costs are deducted, the remaining amount may be paid either in a lump sum or a
"structured settlement," i.e., where monies are paid out in specified increments over a set period of time.

Structured settlements are often favored by the insurance companies paying the monies for reasons including:
○Because most lump-sum awards are exhausted within 5 years, protects against injured party spending award too quickly;
○When injuries are catastrophic, award may be needed to satisfy future income and
medical care needs;
○Many courts are unwilling to allow parents to manage awards on behalf of minors, for fear that they may spend it; and
○May avoid costs associated with lawsuit’s filing and prosecution.

Procedure for Structured Settlements

Although procedures and laws governing structured settlements vary from state to state, common elements often include:
○Negotiations – To determine amount and duration of needed periodic payments, financial planners or other experts are often consulted.
○Determination of award amount – There must be a determination regarding available amount for periodic payments. This calculation may include setting aside amounts needed for attorneys' fees, costs, payment of outstanding medical fees, medical needs in the near future, and lump sum needed by injured party.
○Annuity Contract – Parties must select and negotiate an "annuity contract" to fund the periodic payments. Annuity contracts are offered by insurance companies and may entail one lump-sum payment for a guaranteed stream of payments for a specified time or even for the recipient’s life.
○Drafting Agreement – Because most jurisdictions require court approval for structured settlements, the finalized agreement must be drafted and adopted bythe court.

Tax Benefit of Structured Settlements

Beyond providing a stream of income for a specified period or for life, structured settlements may offer federal tax advantages.

The Internal Revenue Code may allow an injured taxpayer to exclude monies received for physical injuries or sickness from his taxable income, whether from an award in a lawsuit or a negotiated settlement.

Further, annuity payments are based upon various factors, including how long the recipient is likely to live. An injured party may live longer and end up receiving substantially more than the original award or settlement, but the excess may be tax free if he never had receipt of the funds used to buy the annuity and has no ownership rights in it.