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What Is a Medical Lien—and How Will it Affect My Personal Injury Settlement?

Written by Tom Crosley
Apr 06, 2022 Personal Injury, Vehicle Wrecks
  1. 1. What is a Medical Lien?
  2. 2. Who Can File a Medical Lien?
  3. 3. How is a Medical Lien Released? What Happens if I Lose My Personal Injury Case?
  4. 4. Can a Medical Lien Be Negotiated?
  5. 5. Crosley Law’s Expert Negotiation Helped Our Client Reduce Medical Bills
  6. 6. Crosley Law Personal Injury Attorneys Will Fight for You

We probably don’t have to tell you that dealing with medical bills, insurance companies, and a mountain of paperwork is not easy—especially when you’re also trying to recover from the injury that caused it all.

If you’ve made a personal injury claim, you may be wondering how long it will take to get the compensation you deserve. And if you’ve found out that there is a medical lien against your personal injury settlement, you may now be wondering if you’ll even have anything left over for yourself once the health insurance provider gets its cut.

It’s important to understand how medical bills are paid after an accident, and who may have a claim for reimbursement after you obtain your personal injury settlement. How will a medical lien affect your compensation?

What is a Medical Lien?

When you make a personal injury claim, you will naturally demand compensation for any medical care you’ve already received, as well as future medical expenses, current and future lost wages, and pain and suffering.

However, some of your medical bills may have already been paid, in part or in full, by your health insurance company, your own auto insurance company (via a PIP or Med Pay policy), or others. Other hospital bills may simply go unpaid until you are able to recover compensation from the at-fault party—a process that could take months, or even years.

These healthcare providers and insurance companies may then say to you, essentially, that while you may be entitled to compensation, they are also entitled to be reimbursed for emergency medical services, ongoing medical bills, and other expenses they’ve already paid on your behalf.

In order to ensure they get paid, these parties may file a medical lien against your personal injury lawsuit settlement proceeds. A medical lien (also known as a hospital lien when filed by a healthcare provider) requires you to pay these parties directly from your settlement or jury award before the remainder of that money gets to you.

What Is Subrogation?

In legal terms, subrogation is an insurance carrier’s right to pursue the responsible party for the purpose of collecting debt or damages. This frequently occurs in auto accident cases, to use a common example, in which the at-fault driver’s insurance company must repay other insurers that stepped in to cover some of the up-front costs.

Without subrogation, the injured person may receive a large windfall if they receive a settlement for medical bills that they did not pay. However, sometimes the insurance company will try take an unfair portion of your settlement. Between the insurance company and the lawyer fees, you might get next to nothing.

This is why it’s very important to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer when a medical lien has been filed against your case, they will make sure that insurance is only getting reimbursed for what is fair.

Without subrogation, the injured person may receive a large windfall if they receive a settlement for medical bills that they did not pay. However, sometimes the insurance company will try take an unfair portion of your settlement. Between the insurance company and the lawyer fees, you might get next to nothing.

Who Can File a Medical Lien?

Depending on the specific situation of your injury, your healthcare costs may have been covered by different organizations (including the direct providers of your medical care). The way those medical liens are treated can vary for different organizations.

If you were the victim of an accident, one of the following organizations may have paid for your healthcare and filed a medical lien.

  • Your health insurance or the at-fault person’s insurance.
  • A government entity, including Medicaid, Medicare, or Veteran’s Administration (VA).
  • Other insurance, like Med Pay or Workers Comp. (In Texas, PIP insurance is not subject to subrogation, whereas Med Pay is.)
  • Hospitals or other medical providers.

In particular, government agencies and programs can add complication to personal injury cases. Medicaid, Medicare, and VA subrogation interests are known as “super liens,” where the program has a legal right to reimbursement from the settlement awards if they have paid for health expenses following your accident. Their subrogation interest is applied to the entire settlement, not just the medical bills portion, which means that a so-called super lien could affect your pain and suffering compensation.

Even if you are not on Medicare, if you expect to use that program in the next 30 months, they may have a subrogation interest in your case due to potential ongoing medical care. It is extremely important to take this into consideration when filing your case against the negligent party! Your lawyer should ask these kinds of questions and ensure that you are still being compensated fairly in your personal injury case.

How is a Medical Lien Released? What Happens if I Lose My Personal Injury Case?

A medical lien is a legally binding contract, and it must be paid to be released.

There are circumstances when you, the victim of the accident, may be personally liable for a medical lien. One such situation is if you lose your case against the negligent party. If you have signed a medical lien agreement, you will have to pay back the lien even if you are not awarded any damages.

In Texas, your attorney’s fees take priority over the lien payment. This means that your lawyer will take his or her fees from the total amount of compensation you were awarded, and then you must pay the medical lien from the remainder. If there is not enough left to pay the medical lien, you are still responsible to pay back the debt.

This can be a scary prospect, to say the least. It is very important to make sure you have an expert lawyer if there is a medical lien involved in your personal injury case. An experienced personal injury attorney will make sure you get the compensation you deserve, because they have an ace up their sleeve: negotiation.

Can a Medical Lien Be Negotiated?

Yes, a medical lien can be negotiated.

If insurance has paid for your healthcare bills, and is seeking repayment from your personal injury case, their main goal is to get paid. Therefore, it is in their best interest to ensure that some reimbursement is possible, even if they don’t get the full amount they initially asked for.

In fact, most liens are settled for less than the full amount of the lien. A good lawyer can help rewrite the medical lien contract so that it is more favorable to you, adding in clauses to protect you in the event that you lose your case, or the settlement does not cover the lien.

An experienced personal injury lawyer will know how to negotiate with insurance companies and medical care providers, making sure that your medical expenses were billed correctly and fairly. They will use this knowledge to make sure you get to keep as much of your settlement as possible.

RELATED: Negotiating Medical Bills: How a Lawyer Can Help After a Crash

An experienced personal injury lawyer will know how to negotiate with insurance companies and medical care providers, making sure that your medical expenses were billed correctly and fairly. They will use this knowledge to make sure you get to keep as much of your settlement as possible.

Crosley Law’s Expert Negotiation Helped Our Client Reduce Medical Bills

After being rear-ended on the freeway, John suffered daily pain in his neck and shoulders. Doctors ran a multitude of tests, including multiple MRIs, diagnosing John with herniated discs, nerve damage, and spinal strains. His injuries required him to see medical providers several times a week, and the medical bills racked up quickly.

Prior to the accident, John was active and healthy, but due to his injuries the doctors expected he’d need ongoing treatment. He struggled with daily pain and limited mobility, as the victim of a negligent driver. John turned to Crosley Law for help.

As part of John’s case, we looked at the tens of thousands in medical bills that would eat away at the proceeds of his settlement—money that he fairly deserved for the pain and suffering of his life-changing injuries. We aggressively negotiated with the medical providers and insurance companies to significantly reduce what John owed.

Crosley Law’s experience and skill at negotiation were key to getting John the compensation he deserved.

RELATED CLIENT STORY: Teacher Wins $282,000 From UIM Policy After Rear-End Collision

Crosley Law Personal Injury Attorneys Will Fight for You

If you’ve been the victim of an accident, and have sustained injuries that required medical treatment, a medical lien might be filed against your personal injury case. If there is a medical lien or subrogation interest complicating your personal injury settlement, you need an expert lawyer on your side to make sure you get the fair compensation you deserve.

Crosley Law has a wealth of experience negotiating with both medical providers and insurance companies. We will fight for you to keep your settlement and not lose out due to medical liens.

Get started today with a free consultation, and let us review the details of your case and see how Crosley Law can help you. Call 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or fill out our contact form to ask us any questions about medical liens and settlements. Don’t waste another moment worrying about your personal injury case!

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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