Do you need an attorney who can handle, explain, and negotiate medical liens in personal injury cases? For many automobile accident cases, the “anchor” of the damages is the plaintiff’s medical bills. That is, your settlement is frequently impacted significantly by the amount of your medical bills. One of the first questions our attorneys field from our clients is often “how much will I have to pay my medical providers in bills?” If you have been injured and your private health insurance has paid your bills, you may actually be entitled to keep most or all of your settlement except for attorney’s fees and costs. However, if you received medical treatment from an emergency room, chiropractor, or others and did not pay the amount due and owing, there are often medical liens in personal injury cases. To discuss these issues further and better understand the impact of these unpaid bills, call the North Carolina law firm of Maginnis Howard at (919) 526-0450.
N.C.G.S. § 44-49 provides that “there is hereby created a lien upon any sums recovered as damages for personal injury in any civil action in this State.” The “lien is in favor of any person, corporation, State entity, municipal corporation or county to whom the person so recovering, or the person in whose behalf the recovery has been made, may be indebted for any drugs, medical supplies, ambulance services, services rendered by any physician, dentist, nurse, or hospital, or hospital attention or services rendered in connection with the injury in compensation for which the damages have been recovered.”
Essentially, the North Carolina medical liens statute requires that when you are represented by counsel, the attorney is responsible for distributing portions of your settlement or verdict to medical providers who have “perfected” a lien. The medical provider must take affirmative steps to “perfect” their lien. For instance, when your attorney requests copies of medical records and bills from the hospital or physician, those records and bills must be provided without charge and the hospital or physician must provide written notice of the lien to your attorney. Failure to do so means that your attorney does need not disburse any portion of the settlement to the medical provider. It does not, however, eliminate the debt owed by the injured party.
It is also important for you to understand that the medical liens in your personal injury case is limited by N.C.G.S. § 44-50. Specifically, the medical lien is capped at 50% of your settlement or verdict after attorney’s fees are deducted. Because many attorneys use a 33% contingency fee structure, this means that the statute usually limits the total amount of medical liens to 33% of the settlement. This cap helps make it more likely you will be able to at least recover some amount for lost wages, pain and suffering, and disability. Critically, the medical lien is separate from your financial obligation to pay the provider. That is, assume there is a $10,000.00 medical bill and your attorney is required to pay $7,000.00 of any proceeds to the provider pursuant to the medical lien statute. You remain liable for the other $3,000.00 unless your attorney can negotiate a reduction (which is sometimes possible).
If you have been involved in a serious car accident and have outstanding bills that could lead to medical liens in personal injury cases, you should contact a reliable, aggressive personal injury attorney. The North Carolina accident attorneys of Maginnis Howard handle all personal injury cases on contingency basis and offer free consultations. To speak with an attorney today, call the firm at (919) 526-0450 or use our confidential contact page. The firm’s lawyers regularly represents clients with medical liens in personal injury cases across North and South Carolina. We have three conveniently located offices in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Fayetteville.