After being injured in an accident, the action of bringing a personal injury claim is inherently complex. Victims must spend time properly building their case and navigating settlement negotiations. Although these steps are crucial to a successful recovery, these aren’t the only considerations to make.
Many accident victims also need to think about potential liens on their judgment or settlement. It’s important to understand how injury settlement liens work, and how your injury claim can be affected by one so you are better prepared to get the compensation you deserve. Here’s your guide to liens against your personal injury settlement.
What’s a Settlement Lien?
A lien is a legal right that allows a third party to take all or part of your judgment or settlement money. The money goes straight to them before you even see it.
Liens exist to help people and companies get what they are owed. Nevada lawmakers believe they help parties receive justice in the legal system. The law says that in some cases, a third party might have a stronger or more valid claim to your judgment proceeds than you do.
This consideration can be the case when someone did something for you without payment such as treat your injuries or provide legal services to help you recover for your losses. A lien can also exist that’s completely unrelated to your injury. This type of situation can occur when you owe unpaid taxes or child support.
How Do They Work?
A lien works by attaching to the judgment that you are set to receive. A party who wants to claim a lien on your judgment needs to file the appropriate paperwork. This action requires preparing, filing, and serving you with the right notice.
Once there’s a valid lien in your case, the lien holder receives the first payments from your case judgment. When the defendant pays the judgment in your case, you might not ever see it. Instead, the amount of the lien goes right to the lien holder, and you get whatever may be left over.
Who Might Have a Lien?
There are a few different private parties and government agencies that might have a lien on your injury judgment. A hospital or other health care professional that treats you for your injuries can place a lien on your judgment to make sure they get paid.
If you have Medicare or Medicaid, the government might attach a lien to recoup what they’ve paid for your care. In a workers’ compensation case, your employer’s insurance might attach a lien to recover payments that you receive for medical care from a third-party payer.
When a victim spends time in the hospital after a personal injury, the hospital automatically places a lien on the victim’s judgment or settlement. Nevada law 108.590 gives the hospital the right to attach an automatic lien. The hospital can ask for only the reasonable cost of your hospitalization.
The purpose of this automatic lien is to allow victims to find the urgent care that they need after an unexpected injury. You have the right to inspect the hospital’s records for your case to ensure the lien is fair and valid.
Negotiating a Lien
There are some methods you may be able to use to negotiate the terms of a lien in your favor. For example, an insurance company may place a lien on your judgment for what they’ve paid out for your care. However, an insurance company rarely pays a medical provider for the provider’s entire bill.
Instead, the medical providers agree to lower rates for treating patients in exchange for guaranteed insurance payments. For that reason, it’s important to look at the insurance company’s lien to see if it accurately reflects their actual payment. There’s a good chance that you may be able to negotiate with the insurance company for a reduction in the amount of the lien.
Often, insurance companies and even medical providers are willing to work with you to lower the amount of their claim. That’s because they want to give you more leeway to negotiate a settlement. For example, if your medical provider wants repayment for a $10,000 lien and the responsible party only wants to pay $9,000, the medical provider may be willing to agree to a lower amount to help you resolve the case.
This can help the medical provider recoup some of their losses faster and without the risk of losing at trial. You can’t negotiate a reduction when it’s a government agency that holds the lien.
What Do the Parties Need to Do?
Many insurance companies require you to tell them if you’re bringing a personal injury case. This allows the insurer to decide whether to file a lien. For their part, a third party who claims a lien must give you notice of their claim.
There are also time limitations for them to pursue the lien, including those placed by government agencies. If there is a valid lien and you try to ignore it, you can face a lawsuit with serious penalties.
What If the Lien Isn’t Fair?
If you disagree with a lien, you can contest it. In that case, it’s up to the judge to decide if the lien in your case is valid. If you genuinely owe the money, you can expect the court to uphold the lien. When there are multiple liens in your case, it’s up to the judge to decide which gets top priority.
Is a Lien Necessarily a Bad Thing?
A lien can help you get what you need after you’re hurt. In the case of a medical provider, it can encourage the provider to offer you treatment. They can administer this treatment knowing that they’re likely to get paid after you resolve your case. In the event of an attorney’s lien, this can allow an attorney to help you even if you don’t have the money to pay out of pocket.
Getting the Best Result
A qualified attorney can help you address any liens that might come up as your case moves through the courts. They can help you determine whether a lien is valid. If it is, they can offer negotiation strategies to use to lower the amount taken from your settlement money.
It’s important to hire an experienced Las Vegas personal injury attorney to help you navigate the process of dealing with injury liens. Those who try to handle this process on their own can end up paying more than necessary and losing out on the compensation they need to make a full recovery. At each stage, your attorney can help ensure that you fulfill any requirements related to liens in your case while you address every angle to maximize your recovery.