Should I Sign a Medical Lien from My Doctor When I’m Involved in a Collision?
Perhaps you have heard of a medical lien but are not really sure what it consists of. Then you are injured in an automobile accident and are asked to sign a medical lien. Should you? The short answer is no, you should never sign a medical lien without first discussing the situation with an experienced personal injury attorney. First, let’s discuss what a medical lien is.
Two Types of Medical Liens
A medical lien is a charge attached to proceeds recovered by an individual from the at-fault party. A medical lien can be explicit, or it can be hidden. An explicit lien is the subject of this article. An explicit lien is a paper you sign promising to pay for medical care once your personal injury claim is settled.
A hidden lien can be asserted by an HMO, a PPO, Medicare, and Medicaid, the VA, your car insurance, or workers’ compensation. In the case of a hidden lien, these entities would pay for your medical care then once your claim settles, they would recoup those expenses. The lien is called “hidden,” because it is probably in the fine print that few people read, so you are not even aware of it.
What is a Letter of Protection?
An explicit lien general works like this: When you go in for treatment from a healthcare provider, they may be willing to continue your treatment and wait to be paid if you will provide a Letter of Protection. This Letter of Protection is a signed agreement which states you will pay the health care provider after your claim settles. This Letter of Protection is a contract between yourself and the health care provider, and if you fail to honor the contract, you could be sued by the provider.
Why Does Your Medical Provider Want You to Sign a Medical Lien?
Your health care provider has an obvious reason for wanting you to sign a medical lien or a Letter of Protection. That is, they want to ensure they get paid once you receive a settlement from your accident. Unfortunately, signing a medical lien tends to remove your power of negotiation. Once you sign a medical lien agreement with a health care provider, any proceeds you receive from your claim will have your medical expenses attached to the lien directly taken out before you receive any money.
What Happens If You Recover a Settlement—and if You Don’t
Even if your settlement for your injuries is lower than the amount of your medical bills, your attorney would be legally obligated to turn the entire amount of your settlement over to your medical care provider. If it turns out that you are not awarded a personal injury settlement—and you signed a medical lien—things can get really grim. Because a lien agreement provides no oversight regarding the appropriateness of the treatment, doctors under lien agreements often charge more, and sometimes overtreat their patients, therefore, the health care expenses tend to be much higher under a lien agreement.
Can My Personal Injury Attorney Get Me Out of My Medical Lien?
Once a patient signs a lien agreement, it can be very difficult for a personal injury attorney to get them out of the agreement. It is important to understand that your health care provider can still file a medical lien against your settlement, however, at that time, your personal injury attorney can negotiate a settlement amount with the health care provider. While some lienholders are resistant to taking less than the full amount owed, many will willingly accept a lower payment, simply because it is a “bird in hand,” so to speak—they are assured of getting a certain amount.
How Kelley & Canterbury Can Help
One of the most beneficial things you can do following an automobile accident is to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible following your accident. When you do this, your attorney can help you through the many issues that can potentially trip you up—like medical liens. At Kelley & Canterbury, our knowledgeable Anchorage personal injury attorneys will be on your side, at your side, every step of the way.
We are 100 percent dedicated to helping you navigate the difficult aftermath of your auto accident, helping you receive the treatment you need and deserve, as well as an equitable settlement. We are justice-seeking advocates and compassionate allies during your personal injury claim; we can help you deal with insurance companies, the other person’s attorney, and your medical providers, allowing you the time you need to heal. Contact Kelley & Canterbury today!