In 1980, contractor Timothy Culhane was working on a seven-story worksite when he tripped on some unsecured cabling laid down by electrical subcontractors. Those subcontractors were supposed to have the cables secured. They were also supposed to have perimeter cables on the roof to prevent accidental falls. They did neither, and Tim fell from the building and went seven stories down. He has no memory of the fall. Just of the injuries it caused. His legs, ankles and feet were all crushed from the fall, leaving one leg shorter than the other, and causing chronic, lifelong pain.
The fall completely disabled Timothy, who currently receives $800 a month in social security and disability. He sued the subcontractors and was given two options: a lump sum payment of $2 million, or a $1 million structured settlement annuity. His attorneys guided him to take the annuity. It currently pays him $13,327.75 a month.
“I knew nothing about investing money at the time, and I was not in a good place in my life back then. My attorney sort of did an intervention with me,” Timothy recalls. He was in extreme pain during the lawsuit and was on antidepressants for anxiety disorder. His lawyer brought in him, his wife, his mother and his sister to explain how the structured settlement annuity would work. The lawyer laid it all out on a big blackboard in his office.
The ELNY liquidation agreement will cut Timothy’s payments by 52%. He has just turned 62 and currently needs a right knee replacement; he will need a left knee replacement before long, and his hips are likewise starting to go. He does not know how he will afford these procedures on his new payment schedule.
Timothy has already sold his home in Delray Beach, Florida because of this. “I used to pay somebody to drive me around, or on a bad day, to help me get around my house. That’s out now,” Timothy says. “It’s hard for me to do anything. I can’t get around very well. When my friends want to go out to a ball game, I can’t. The walking just destroys me.”
Timothy currently lives with three friends in Plantation, Florida, 35 minutes from his former home. He expects to be with them for the foreseeable future while he figures out his finances. “This has devastated me,” he says. “I’m going to have to make it work. I’ll just have to cut everything. It’s going to be really hard.”
The ELNY letter Timothy received has taken a more personal toll as well. He and his wife were married in 1975, and split in 1978. Timothy’s accident was in 1980, and he and his wife reunited after that. Together, they had two children — Krista in 1982 and Mickael in 1984. But as Timothy grew increasingly consumed with rage and depression over his injuries, his family life frayed, and his wife divorced him in 1989.
He built his wife and kids a house in Connecticut with his annuity money which he is now no longer welcome in. He used to support Krista and Michael, but is now concerned that his reduced payments will make it impossible for him to meet his financial obligations to his ex-wife and kids.
Previously, he paid a monthly payment of $3,500, and he does not know how he will continue this once the terms of his annuity change. “Now I’m worried about getting thrown in jail,” he says. “I will not be able to pay my bills if I have to pay my ex-wife what I have been paying her.” His obligations to her are non-modifiable, and he has since learned that his ex-wife has already obtained a lawyer to press the issue once his payments reduce.
“If I don’t have the money, I just don’t have the money,” Timothy says. “You can’t get blood from a stone. But I got a letter from her lawyer already.”
He says that all of his important relationships have suffered because of his injuries, and his inability to cope with it entirely despite continuous therapy sessions and medication.
“I was short with everybody, not just them,” Timothy says of his estranged family. “This thing has consumed me. I’m trying to let it go, but I just can’t, you know? It makes me fear the future. And it shows in my anger.”