We have been discussing why serious Maryland injury cases often take substantial time to settle and today we focus on why "liens" are a major factor in delaying payment of settlement proceeds,
First what is a lien? A lien is defined as an interest someone else has in your property. One sometimes hears of so-called mechanics liens for work performed on car, home or building. Such a lien is a mechanism for contractors to have a way to be paid when they perform work on your car and you choose not to pay them.
This is a simplistic analysis of liens but individuals, companies and governmental entities often either seek to or have liens on personal injury settlements and verdicts. These prospective and extant liens come about in many different ways.
The first category we will address concerns liens of governmental entities. These liens come about by virtue of statutes or laws that create them. The best example is where an injured victim of a crash receives healthcare services through Medicare or Medicaid.
Prior to accepting settlement proceeds the injured party, typically through their attorney, must alert Medicare or Medicaid as to the existence of a personal injury claim and must provide them information about the nature of the injuries sustained, the insurance entities involved and the nature of any settlement.
Failure to take in to account such liens can have a variety of very adverse effects. The injured party can lose eligibility for their healthcare coverage and have other governmental benefits withheld or reduced. Your attorney also has potential liability for repaying unpaid amounts. This naturally motivates lawyers to make sure that the government is paid.
This process as you can imagine can slow the distribution of settlement monies. Without going into all the details, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services issues "conditional payment notices" with"payment summary forms" reflecting treatments, dates and charges that they believe are related to the underlying incident that serves as the basis for the personal injury claim.
One can contest this repayment but again this takes time. so government liens MUST be taken care of before the proceeds of a personal injury settlement or verdict can be paid out and that causes delay without regard to any thing your lawyer can do.
The second area of liens involves those asserted by health insurers when they have paid for accident-related medical services. Many health insurers are vigilant about what they are paying for and send out letters inquiring about whether their insureds are bringing claims and if so against whom and why.
Failure to respond to these inquiries and to subsequently repay the health insurer can result in loss of future coverage under the health plan which can effect other family members as well. Health insurers and government lien holders can be negotiated with to seek reductions in what they are paid but this too is laborious and time consuming.
The final area of liens we will cover involves those that healthcare providers create as a quid pro quo for providing medical services. Physicians, therapists and other healthcare personnel often have injured patients sign fairly onerous written agreements trying to prioritize their receiving payments out of settlements and verdicts.
These healthcare providers sometimes prove more intransigent than other lienholders, clinging to misguided notions that they are entitled to gobble up their full charges even where the injured victim is left with little compensation. To be clear this is not always the case but if there is a protracted battle about who gets paid what out of a settlement that is often why.
The bottom line is that many innocent victims of personal injury end up with less than a fair share of their settlement or verdict unless they and their attorneys fight for it and that simply takes time. Clients sometimes grow impatient and occasionally think somehow the lawyer is delaying but getting fair compensation is not that simple and patience is essential.
If it seems things are moving more slowly than anticipated talk to your lawyer and they likely can explain the process and give you a realistic estimate of both the end date and your likely economic recovery. If they can't you may need a new lawyer.