Medical Liens Explained

A medical lien is a common term in auto accident and personal injury cases. It is the amount of money you have to pay back to the organization that paid your medical bills. In some cases that will be a government organization like Medi-Cal or Medicare, in other situations it may be your health insurance.

Why do you have to pay money back? Well, the basic reasoning is that when you settle a case, part of the money being paid to you is for the medical bills. And if somebody else paid the medical bills for you, then they want that money back.

There are three types of medical liens you need to keep in mind:

  1. Statutory Liens

These are liens that are established by some law. This type of lien would be in place if your medical bills were paid by any government program such as Medi-Cal, Medicare or any type of county based insurance program for low-income individuals.

  1. Health insurance liens (rights of reimbursement)

These are liens that are created through your private health insurance. Believe it or not, buried deep in your health insurance contract is a paragraph or section giving the insurance company the right to be reimbursed by you for any money you recover for medical bills that they paid.

  1. Private liens

These are liens that you create yourself usually because you have been in an accident, are not covered by any insurance and you need medical care. In this situation, your lawyer will often recommend you seek out a doctor that will treat you on a lien basis. In other words, they provide you with medical care and defer the payment until your case is settled.

Resolving Medical Liens

Your lawyer will handle the resolution of your medical liens as part of your case. Just like an insurance company negotiates a reduction in the amount they pay to doctors, your lawyer will negotiate your medical liens. This is necessary because you had to pay for a lawyer and pay costs of a lawsuit in order to get any money at all, so the idea is that you should get a break from the amount owed since you were the one that paid to get the recovery.

The laws that create the statutory liens all have built-in formulas for reducing the amount owed to them. Some health insurance contracts have the formulas built into them as well. Certain private medical liens can be difficult to resolve because these do not have formulas to reduce the amount owed. However, there is always room for negotiation, no matter what type of medical lien. Here are some of the factors that will be considered when negotiating your liens:

  1. Attorney fees;
  2. Lawsuit costs;
  3. Other liens – often you will have several liens;
  4. Causation – was the medical care related to this accident or a pre-existing issue;
  5. Fault – if the accident was 50% your fault! then you probably are not being paid all of your medical bills, so you shouldn’t have to pay back the full amount either.

These are all factors used to negotiate your medical liens. The process of lien negotiation can take several weeks, and often can delay payment of a settlement. However, you are paying these medical liens with your money, so it is in your best interest to take the necessary time to allow your lawyer to negotiate the best deal possible.

Hit and Run Accidents: Who Pays?

San Diego hit and run accidents are not uncommon. There are many reasons for hit and run accidents. Typically the person is intoxicated, involved in some criminal activity or does not have a license or insurance. Uninsured and underinsured insurance is insurance that you purchase to protect yourself in the event that you are in an auto accident and the at-fault driver either does not have insurance, or does not have enough insurance to pay for your injuries.

There are two important issues you need to understand about this type of insurance:

  1. Your limits must exceed the at-fault driver’s coverage in order for it to become available. In other words, if the other driver has $100,000 in coverage, and you have $100,000 in coverage, then your coverage would not become available. If the other driver only had $50,000 coverage then you would have an additional $50,000 from your coverage. Obviously if the other driver had no insurance, then you would have $100,000 available. The insurance does not stack. So you cannot collect $50,000 from the at-fault driver and then an additional $100,000 through your insurance for a total of $150,000. That is not how it works. You can never exceed your policy limits.
  1. These cases are handled through arbitration as opposed to a trial. So you will not have your case presented to a jury. Instead it will be presented to one single judge or lawyer that will then make a decision on whether you win or lose, and how much money you are owed.

In California, the minimum liability insurance required to drive a car is only $15,000. That is not enough money to compensate for any serious injury yet many people only carry that level of insurance. Additionally, California has a high percentage of uninsured drivers on the roads. These two facts combined with the fact that this type of insurance is very affordable, means that you should purchase as much of it as possible under your insurance policy. If you have $500,000 liability coverage, then you should have $500,000 in uninsured motorist coverage as well.

How Much Does A Lawsuit Cost?

Lawsuit Costs Explained

Lawsuits are not cheap.

It costs money to file an auto accident or other personal injury lawsuit, and it costs even more money to properly handle a lawsuit.

Since personal injury lawyers are often hired using a contingency fee agreement, the costs are almost always advanced on behalf of the client. Because the lawyer has the expertise, the nature and extent of the costs associated with the case are typically solely within the discretion of the lawyer. In other words, the lawyer is going to spend the money necessary to adequately represent you – and you agree that he can do that without calling you for approval every time he spends money.

The costs will vary from case to case, depending upon the specific facts of each case. These costs, however, can and often do include, the following types of expenses:

–    travel

–    meal and lodging expenses associated with necessary travel

–    deposition charges

–    expert witness fees and costs

–    consultation expenses

–    outside legal and/or medical research and review

–    medical and expert consultation

–    investigation expenses

–    computer services

–    expenses performed as a necessary part of assembling evidence on behalf of the client.

–    long-distance phone charges,

–    service of process fees,

–    service of subpoena fees,

–    court costs and fees,

–    jury fees,

–    postage,

–    copy charges and expenses,

–    facsimile expenses,

–    overnight express charges,

–    photographic reproduction,

–    preparation of trial exhibits,

–    Reasonable storage fees for physical evidence

These advanced costs are reimbursed before any recoveries are disbursed to the client. This is discussed in a little more detail where I explain attorneys fees and where I explain how to determine the value of your case.