One of the biggest question that plaintiffs have in a personal injury lawsuit is the amount of compensation they will receive. While the judge or jury may award them a specific amount, the plaintiff will not receive that amount. In addition to the attorney’s fees, a plaintiff may have medical liens placed against his or her settlement.
What is a Medical Lien on a Settlement?
Medical liens allow healthcare providers, hospitals, and clinics the right to take a portion of the plaintiff’s settlement. This right is often guaranteed by law to protect those who serve personal injury victims.
Medical liens are secured interests in compensation. A healthcare provider can receive a portion of the settlement to satisfy their lien, and they have a legal right to request repayment for services they provide to the plaintiff.
Often, claims are filed by hospitals and physicians who provide medical care to a personal injury victim, but the victim still has an outstanding balance. To ensure that it receives payment, the healthcare provider will file a lien against the plaintiff.
Health Insurers Can File Liens, Too
In addition to medical providers, a health insurer could file a lien against the settlement, as well. This lien would be for the total value of medical benefits paid for all treatments related to the injury. After all, it is only fair that they receive repayment for the costs they paid on behalf of the plaintiff.
When an insurer finds out that its client is filing a lawsuit, it will file a lien with the court to ensure that it is reimbursed for all charges associated with that injury.
When Are Liens Necessary?
A patient can pay medical bills upfront with the healthcare provider, through health insurance, or can elect to have the money taken from the pending settlement.
If the plaintiff has already paid out of pocket to the healthcare provider, the provider has no right to file a lien against that patient. If, however, the patient has an outstanding balance and elects to pay that through compensation, then the company has a right to file the lien.
Liens Do Not Guarantee Payment
A lien does not guarantee payment to the physician or hospital. Because there is no guarantee, many hospitals will not elect to have a patient satisfy the balance through a lien. After all, the plaintiff may not win the lawsuit, or the amount may be too insufficient to pay the claim balance.
Often, a plaintiff is better off negotiating with the insurance company or healthcare provider to make payments on the balance due, or to negotiate a smaller fee to satisfy the debt.
How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
An attorney can assist in ensuring that liens are accurate and legal against a plaintiff’s settlement. Also, he or she can ensure that the client receives adequate settlement amounts to pay outstanding medical costs, insurance reimbursements, and other damages associated with the injury.