By Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC
You’ve been through the process from soup to nuts: hiring an attorney, filing a lawsuit, being deposed by opposing counsel, examined by their “independent” doctor, and, finally, having your day in court or, more likely, reaching a settlement with the insurance carrier for the defendant.
A week later, your lawyer forwards you the letter with the breakdown of what happens with the money in the settlement check. The lawyer was good and was able to negotiate down the bills for the medical treatment, but you still have to pay the doctors thousands of dollars.
Why? Why don’t you get to keep all the money?
After your accident, you had medical treatment that was used during the lawsuit to prove the extent of your injuries. Hopefully, there was enough medical insurance to pay for all your treatment, but it doesn’t always work that way.
Thankfully, some doctors are willing to do medical treatment on the understanding that they will get paid at the back end of the lawsuit when you settle or get money from a verdict. To protect themselves, the doctors put a lien on your lawsuit. Sometimes, the doctors won’t accept a lien and you will need to go to a funding company to get a loan to pay a doctor. If that happens, the funding company has a lien on the lawsuit.
Usually, it is better to have the doctor put a lien on the case because a doctor will not charge the heavy interest rates charged by funding companies. Other times, you have no choice and simply need money from a funding company to pay your basic bills.
And still, in other times, your medical treatment or lost wages are paid by Workers’ Compensation who has an automatic lien on the case if you were injured on the job.
For older people, Medicare often has a lien if it paid for the treatment from the injury.
Whether it is your doctor, a funding company, Medicare, or Workers’ Compensation, they get to take a slice of the money you recovered in a lawsuit if they have placed a lien on the lawsuit.
While it might feel hard to repay these liens, it is worth remembering that the treatment you received not only made you better but also increased the value of your lawsuit. The insurance adjuster for the defendant knows the liens and knows that a jury will more than likely look more favorably on a plaintiff who has liens to repay.
Another thing to remember is that the doctor who put a lien on your lawsuit is the same doctor who will not get paid in the event you lose your lawsuit. The doctor runs the same risk as you with the lawsuit.
So, while we all want as much money as we believe we deserve, we must remember those who helped us when we needed it most. In the event that you may need legal counsel to assist you with your injury case, consider reaching out to an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you with the process.