When I began my career, I realized early on the incredible responsibility I had in advising people what to do with their settlement after being injured. It is an opportunity to have a positive impact on someone’s life when they are at their most vulnerable. With what I do, I see many people who have suffered indescribable things. Many have been an inspiration with their spirit to overcome. In serving my clients, my personal values have always been hugely important; being a consummate professional in every aspect of what I do while serving others. Respecting those I come into contact with is absolutely essential. Acting with the utmost integrity and dedication to purpose allows me to get the job done. Finally, and most importantly, I try do this while being empathetic to the injury victims who desperately need my help after having their lives changed forever. I didn’t really understand all of this as keenly as I do now until I became an injury victim myself.
In August of 2016 I suffered a debilitating accident while pursuing one of my life’s great passions – cycling. I was hit by a pick-up truck and ended up in the ICU for 9 days. Nearly every bone in my face was broken, 7 of my teeth had been knocked out, my jaw was broken in multiple places requiring a metal plate in my chin, and my right clavicle was broken, requiring a metal plate and screws. I was hospitalized for 3 weeks and upon awakening from a 5-day medically induced coma, I found my jaw was wired shut and I was on a ventilator and a feeding tube. My injuries were life-changing: I can no longer eat and enjoy food the way I used to, and I suffered significant post-traumatic stress symptoms. My ability to speak and work was crippled for months and although I was finally able to get back on the bike, I will never be able to ride and compete the same way again.
My recovery took two agonizing years and my life has been permanently impacted by this tragic event, yet I still consider myself fortunate. I could have suffered a traumatic brain injury, a spinal cord injury or even death. I see so many clients in my practice who weren’t as lucky as I was. In the end, I am very thankful for being able to walk, talk and think. The doctors and nurses who cared for me were incredible. I am grateful for the care they provided to me and the other medical professionals who have helped me recover. Also, I am grateful for the tort system that gave me the opportunity to have my damages addressed and the ability to face the person who forever changed my life with his negligence.
Like many injury victims, I had to figure out insurance coverage issues for my healthcare, and had to bring suit as the coverage was far too inadequate to meet my medical expenses. After settlement, I had to make many of the decisions that I discuss routinely with clients in my practice. I had to figure out what to do with my recovery and how to protect myself, which I did by setting up a structured settlement and a trust for my future medical expenses. I had to deal with and negotiate my health insurer lien. I faced all of the same issues that clients I regularly work with face when their case is resolved. It was an enlightening experience. As a result, I learned intimately what injury victims have already encountered by the time I get the opportunity to work with them.
While I feel it's important to tell my story of being a personal injury victim, it's equally important to understand a little about my background, and how I came to write my book, The Art of the Settlement. Twenty years ago, I embarked on a new career path and made the decision to leave a defense litigation practice and put my legal training to work in a different field, settlement consulting. When I started out, it seemed simple enough. Assist trial lawyers when they settle a catastrophic case. But as the years went by in my settlement planning practice, I started to understand how complex it all really is. The intersection of taxation of damages, public benefit preservation, Medicare Secondary Payer compliance, trusts, liens and the financial options is a niche that I realized was being underserved.
In 2008, while serving as the President of a national settlement consulting firm, the idea of a company that could simultaneously assist trial lawyers with all these areas began to take hold in my mind. At that point, I made the decision to start my own company and build out the model. During this time, I was also finishing up my LL.M. degree in elder law to continue my training/focus on planning for those with disabilities. Since there is an interconnectivity between all these disciplines it was a fortuitous decision to pursue my degree while building the foundation for what would become Synergy Settlement Services. Over the last eleven years, the vision has come into focus and the business I envisioned has become a reality.
Day in and day out, Synergy helps trial lawyers focus on what they do best by dealing with the issues that arise at settlement like lien resolution, Medicare compliance, public benefit preservation and settlement planning techniques. The Art of the Settlement chronicles all those issues and helps trial lawyers navigate the issue spotting that needs to happen in every personal injury practice when settling cases for those who are significantly disabled. Ultimately, it is a guide for personal injury lawyers to help close cases compliantly at settlement.
Jason D. Lazarus © 2020. All rights reserved