Your injury case is settled and the check is in. What more is there? Liens. What is that?

The personal injury claims and settlement process can drag on endlessly and often needlessly. So, many plaintiffs experience a wave of relief and anticpation when they hear their case is settled and the check is in.

Unfortunately, often the relief and anticipation are unwarranted because many injury cases involve either repayment of doctor's bills that went unpaid during the claim or liens.

Liens are legal claims to assets, in this case the value of the personal injury claim.

Liens come in several species.

There are liens that are created by agreement between the injured party and a third-party such as a healthcare provider, where the injured plaintiff can't afford necessary medical but the doctor agrees to be paid for their services out of the settlement proceeds.

There are liens that exist between injured parties and their health insurers. The health insurer may pay your crash-related medical expenses but seek to be repaid out of any settlement or verdict. Failure to repay the health insurer can result in loss of health insurance coverage which is hazardous to your health.

The most problematic liens are those with Medicaid and Medicare both because they must be honored and because the process can take seemingly forever. They must be honored because the liens exist pursuant to statute ( Laws) and can be enforced against the injured party, their attorney and the at-fault party's insurer.

This makes liability insurers super careful to ensure that such liens are paid, often paying them directly rather than allowing for the risk that the plaintiff or their counsel will fail to do so.

The problem is that Medicaid offices are very slow to figure out what they have paid and what they think should be repaid. Efforts to motivate them to move more swiftly are completely unavailing.

We settled a recent case for $275,000.00 and immediately notified Medicaid. It is now almost four months later and we haven't heard a peep. The client desperately needs their money but we are not able to provide them any assurance when the full proceeds of the settlement will become available.

One suspects that the offices that process the Medicaid lien claims have more of them than can be promptly processed and are doing their best but it is frustrating for all involved.

Medicare claims are more efficiently processed through the Center for Medicare Services ( CMS) but it too takes months to complete.

The bottom line: Congratulations your case is settled! Now the waiting game begins.

Robert V. Clark
Maryland Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyer
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