“Talk is over-rated as a means of settling disputes.”
―Tom Cruise, Cocktail
I’m sorry but I have to do it – time for more legalese. A “lien” is a legal claim on any money you might receive for your damages. Just imagine that someone is “leaning” on your case. The whole concept can get messy and may be a bit complicated. Your health insurance (including Medicare or Medicaid) may have a lien for any amount they paid out for your medical treatment. Additionally, your car insurance (for payments made under your “medical payment coverage”), your employer (for payments made under “workers compensation”), the hospital (pursuant to the hospital lien statute), or even some of your doctors may have liens on your case as well (if you signed “Letters of Protection” with them).
That’s not fair, right? Well, that’s the law. Although you are supposed to pay your liens immediately after you receive your settlement, many times you will be able to negotiate them as well. It is a good idea to gather information about any possible liens early in your case so that it is much easier to resolve them once you are ready.
First, let’s start with liens by your own car insurance company. As part of your Personal Injury Protection benefits (PIP), you are not required to pay back money paid. However, many policies have something called Medical Payments Coverage, or “Med Pay” for short. This is a benefit which will pay more medical bills over and above what your PIP covers. You may have this benefit on your insurance policy or you may not. You will need to check your policy to see if you have Med Pay benefits available to you.
In most cases, your insurance policy language states that you must pay back any money paid out as Med Pay benefits from a settlement. If you have Med Pay on your insurance policy, or, if you were notified by your car insurance company that they plan on asserting a lien, it is smart to send a letter to them prior to signing the Release with the at-fault party. The letter should ask them to waive their right to a lien for any money they may have paid out so that you can settle your case. In many cases, they will waive their right once you have asked them to do so.
Your health insurance provider may also issue a lien to recover any money it spent on your personal injury accident treatment. A process known as “subrogation” may require you pay back these medical expenses In subrogation, your health insurance provider can seek repayment of the money it laid out for your treatment from the final settlement.
If your health insurance did in fact pay out any money for treatment which is the result of a case which may end in a settlement, it is your duty (as stated in the policy language) to notify them of the claim. This includes Medicare, Medicaid and Medicare Advantage Plans. You are probably asking what would happen if you never notified them. Well, the truth is, maybe nothing. However, there is a very good chance that they could find out about the settlement in the future and come after you for repayment after a substantial time has passed.
If any of these types of insurance has paid anything toward your treatment, we immediately notify them of the claim. Then, when we are preparing the Demand Package and after the case has settled, we again speak with them to get the current amount due. We will have received a ledger of all payments made on your behalf. Quite often the list includes doctor visits which had nothing to do with your accident. We simply notify them of the errors and have them take those visits off. Moreover, we always attempt to negotiate the lien at the end of the case.
Seek Legal Help
A lawyer can be very useful to you and your case. As I have said before, I believe it is always smart to have a lawyer represent you with regard to your personal injury case which includes the resolution of outstanding liens.
Remember, the best thing you can do is to call the Ticktin Law Group at (561) 232-2222 as soon as possible. By speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer and going over all the facts of your particular claim, you will get a much better idea of what steps you should already be taking, what the best way is to proceed with your case and what compensation you may be entitled to.