If you have been hurt in a car wreck or trucking collision, or have some other personal injury claim, you may have a lien placed on your recovery. But what is a lien? One of the main reference books for lawyers, Black’s Law Dictionary, defines a “lien” as “a claim, encumbrance, or charge on property for payment of some debt, obligation, or duty.” Still, what does that really mean? If you are hurt by someone else, either intentionally or through their negligence, you very likely have a personal injury claim. Most personal injury claims are for negligent conduct of someone else, and those claims nearly always involve insurance. If you have a claim, then that claim is actually your property. You own the claim, just like you own a car, land, clothes, your vinyl record collection, whatever. Likewise, if you recover money from your claim, that money becomes your property.
There are many types of liens. In a personal injury claim, a lien means that a person, company, or governmental unit (like Medicare or Medicaid) has a right to be paid something out of your money (your property) that you get from your claim. A person, company, or government with a lien is called a “lien holder.” These claims can and often do exist even before you get any money. For example, if you’re in a car wreck, or are bitten by a dog, and you go to the emergency room for medical treatment, the hospital will have a claim for payment of your bills. If they follow the correct legal steps, they can establish a lien against your personal injury claim. You did not have a claim until you were injured by someone else’s negligence (the other driver or the dog owner). The hospital did NOT have a claim until you were treated there. If your treatment was paid for by your private health insurance or Medicare, they may have a right to be repaid out of the money you get from your personal injury claim. With your claim, you don’t automatically get anything: you have to take steps to protect your rights. Likewise, your medical providers and health insurance plans have to take steps to protect their rights (usually called “perfecting a lien.”) Governmental units like Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare immediately have automatic liens once they pay anything for treatment related to a personal injury claim, but there are still steps they have to take to be repaid, and people who have those types of medical coverage have rights that change depending on the type of coverage involved, and the circumstances of payment. In nearly all cases, you will have much more protection if you are represented by a lawyer for your personal injury claim. Private insurance plans often have something called a “contractual right of reimbursement,” which is similar to a lien, but difference exist. We deal with those in a separate blog.
The award-winning personal injury attorneys at the Miller Law Group have over 50 years of experience in dealing with liens, subrogation, contractual reimbursement. Our lawyers know how to identify what liens may apply to your claim, and they know how and when to negotiate with those lien holders in order to protect your rights fully. In some cases, the only protections you have only kick in if you have hired a lawyer. Contact the Miller Law Group today to learn how our Personal Injury Practice Group, and its leader, Sean Cole, can help you with your claim. All our personal injury claims are handled on a contingency fee basis, and we only get paid once you get a settlement or jury verdict. Contact the Miller Law Group today for a free consultation. We’ve got your back.