Handling Medical Liens in Personal Injury Litigation

If you have been involved in a recent accident or experienced a personal injury as a result of another’s negligence, you likely sought medical treatment from a hospital or medical provider. Your insurance may have covered these costs, or a government program like Medicaid may do so on your behalf.

What many personal injury victims do not realize is that when a third party pays your medical expenses and you later seek to recover for medical expenses in a personal injury lawsuit, that third party may be entitled to part of your award and can file a medical lien against you.

Why Do Medical Liens Happen?

Medical liens are an effort by health care providers and insurers to recover money that they might have paid in providing you with medical assistance. When you seek recovery for these expenses from a defendant, the medical providers then want their money back.

For example, say that you are injured in an automobile accident and are immediately taken to a local ER. Your medical expenses may cost thousands of dollars. You will likely pay part of those expenses out of pocket, and your insurance will cover the rest.

Later, at trial, you may seek damages for medical bills and costs incurred as a result of your injury. If the jury awards you money sufficient to cover your expenses and more, your insurance company can file a lien to recover its share of those expenses as well, as they paid to treat part of your injury too.

Types of Medical Liens

Iowa law permits several types of medical liens, including:

  • Hospital liens
  • Insurance liens
  • Medicare/Medicaid liens

Hospital liens are a hospital’s attempt to recover for any expenses it incurred in treating your injuries. This may include time you spent in a hospital ER that was not reimbursed by insurance, or that you weren’t able to pay for. Similarly, insurance and Medicare/Medicaid liens are for these entities to recover expenses they incurred.

One of the important things to be aware of with liens is that they may often include a hospital, or Medicaid’s inflated charges, and seek incredible amounts of money for relatively simple procedures. You will want to carefully scrutinize any bills you receive.

What Can You Do About Medical Liens?

The first thing to realize about medical liens is that they are not written in stone. Much like other hospital bills and forms of debt, they can be negotiated. Many medical providers will be happy to receive even a partial recovery of the expenses that they incurred and are willing to negotiate a lower amount rather than fight about the issue.

If you are hoping to negotiate with lien holders, it is important to try to do so before you reach a final resolution or settlement in your case. This will accomplish two goals: (1) help you to know exactly how much you’ll get out of your settlement after the lien holders are paid and (2) make sure the lien holders don’t know the full amount of your settlement prior to negotiation.

Additionally, use a lawyer to assist you in negotiating your liens whenever possible. They will be familiar with the arguments and practices that lienholders use, and will have a better sense of what type of negotiated payment is realistic.

Dedicated Personal Injury Attorney Jonathan D. Schmidt Can Handle Liens On Your Behalf

If you are considering a personal injury lawsuit but believe that you may have companies or individuals who are likely to file a lien on any money you recover, you should speak with a skilled attorney to develop an aggressive strategy from the outset. Personal injury attorney Jonathan D. Schmidt has dealt with many different liens and lien holders in his representation of accident victims and can work with you to develop a solid defense and negotiation strategy. To find out more about how he can help, contact us online or at (319) 423-3031.