Liens and How They Integrate With Wrongful Death and Personal Injury Claims in Phoenix
If you have been involved in a serious accident in Arizona and it resulted in a personal injury claim or a wrongful death claim, there's much that you likely do not understand. One of the most common things that injury victims and their families do not know is that liens can be a significant part of the legal claim that can impact them through the process of recovery. This can be a very confusing topic for individuals who have been injured in an accident, especially if they engage the assistance of an attorney that is not familiar with personal injury law. The majority of attorneys who do not practice personal injury or related law have little understanding or knowledge of how liens work and how the law pertains to liens in matters of death and injury compensation. What's more is that the law is continuously changing regarding liens and it is important for individuals and their attorneys to have a clear understanding of how that can impact their case.
A lien is a document that allows for another party to gain access to a portion of the final settlement given to the injury victim after their case is settled. Lien documents are often filed by individuals or businesses, like doctors and hospitals, who have a financial interest in the outcome of your legal case against the party who caused your injuries. Medical liens are known as the most common type of lien placed on the settlement of the injured party. Medical liens are most commonly seen in cases where the injured individual was involved in a personal injury claim or wrongful death claim as a result of a slip and fall, a motorcycle collision, an accident on a construction site, or a car crash, though there are many other types of accidents where injuries or deaths that lead to a lawsuit could come with a lien. Liens can be both consensual and non-consensual, and it is important to understand the difference between the two, and what it means for you.
If you have a consensual lien this means that you entered into the lien agreement willingly and have worked out a plan with the other party. If your doctor agreed to wait to bill you for your medical care until after you won your personal injury lawsuit case, you will most likely enter into what is known as a consensual lien. Many doctors are willing to engage in a consensual lien because they do believe that injury victims should be able to access quality medical care to help them through their recovery. The lien helps to ensure that the doctor will be paid. In the large majority of cases, these types of liens are accepted and allow to pass through without contestation.
Unfortunately, not all situations are as cut and dry as we would like when it comes to personal injury and wrongful death. For some injury victims who file a personal injury claim, the unfortunate reality is that another party, like a hospital, will demand additional payments above and beyond the medical insurance payments once they know that there will be a settlement from the individual whose negligence caused the incident. When a hospital bills you, the victim, after your insurance has already paid, this is what is known as "balance billing." The law in the state of Arizona allows hospitals and doctors to engage in this practice and it can be very disheartening and detrimental to the individuals who were injured in the accident and expecting that they would receive the entire amount of their settlement to fund their recovery. No matter why you file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, another party, like a hospital, may be able to file a lien and claim some of your settlement.
Liens are filed so that the filing party can make a profit off of your settlement. In many cases, unexpected liens become a part of the equation after it is already too late for the victim to do anything about it. Liens may be just a few hundred dollars in some cases, but in the majority of cases, liens can be thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the amount of your settlement and the amount of medical care or other services you received. In many cases, victims are unaware of the fact that a lien has been placed against them through the courts until their settlement has already been decided. Sometimes, unexpected settlement liens are requested as much as two years or more after the settlement has already been approved and made. The problem for most individuals who end up in this situation is that they do not have the right kind of attorney—with expertise in liens and personal injury law and wrongful death law—to help them get past liens. A skilled personal injury attorney or wrongful death lawyer works to get these types of liens dismissed so that the injured party is receiving what is fair for their injuries. Experienced personal injury attorneys focus on ensuring that you receive the most of your settlement money and that hospitals and doctors do not receive more of your money than they deserve. We do whatever we can at The Husband & Wife Law Team to ensure that you receive fair treatment and a fair settlement at a nice future ahead of you.
If you were injured in an personal injury accident or you have filed a wrongful death claim after the death of a loved one you may be asking why another party, like a hospital, would want to file a lien against you. In fact, the filing of the lien and your finding out about it may cause you and your family even more grief than you had originally anticipated going through. So why is it that hospitals, doctors, and other entities file a lien against a person who has a personal injury or wrongful death settlement coming to them?
The shortest and easiest answer is that doctors and hospitals are still businesses and they have a business bottom line. By filing a lien against you and accessing more of the money you receive from your settlement, hospitals and doctors are able to cut down on the expenses that they foot overall for your recovery. That's right. Although the money from a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit claim should be aimed at helping you and your family recover or begin to reshape your life after the death of a loved one or their serious injury in an accident, that money is fair game in many ways according to the law. Although personal injury accident and wrongful death claim law are meant to assist victims and their families in getting the compensation they need and deserve for their injuries, damages, and losses, these laws also allow entities who assist in recovery or rescue to seek out their full payments for services rendered.
This is critical for individuals who have insurance and are impacted by what is known as balance billing, or the action of the hospital sending a bill to the victim for whatever was not paid for by the insurance. If you did not have a plan worked out with your insurance company or with the doctor or hospital and you receive a balance bill, you likely will be held responsible for the amounts that are listed on the invoices that you receive.
What You Can Do To Minimize Liens in the Event of an Arizona Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Claim Lawsuit on Your Behalf
No matter what role you might play in a personal injury or wrongful death claim lawsuit, it is important to note that your life and your recovery could be impacted in a significant way by a lien. Because liens are often invisible throughout the process of negotiation with the negligent party, you won't know about them about you are ready to receive payments from your settlement. This can be of serious detriment to those who are structured to receive specific payment amounts from their settlements and suddenly must pay off large amounts to creditors that have been awarded part of the settlement.
So you might be asking yourself if there are ways to keep yourself from experiencing the awful surprise of having a lien against your own settlement. There are many different things that you can do that will help make you and your settlement less of a target for the long haul. First, make sure that you have communicated in writing with the appropriate parties at the hospital, what the payment arrangements are. You can make things much easier for yourself if you are able to get the hospital to sign an agreement for a certain amount of money. Also, ensure that you are speaking openly and honestly with the insurance company and with the doctor's office on a regular basis so you have a heads up if they might be filing a lien. This will help keep you from having a serious surprise to deal with and may help you know to file additional paperwork that could help bolster your case and leave more money in your settlement.
Most importantly, calling an attorney can help you minimize the risk of being seen as a target for a lien, and will also help you to better understand your options in this situation. An experienced attorney who has worked with personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits in Arizona before will know to look for liens on a regular basis, know who to contact about the liens and who might file them from within a given organization, and also how to negotiate for the release of money, the release of the lien, and the right for you to keep your settlement in its entirety.
A skilled personal injury attorney in Phoenix can help you navigate the murky waters and will understand the tactics that hospitals and other entities employ to try to take more from you than they are entitled to, especially in the case of a personal injury or wrongful death claim. The Husband & Wife Law Team are available to talk to you about your options and how your recovery may be impacted by the filing of lien against your pending settlement. If you are ready to make a complete recovery and to get what you deserve without paying extra to the hospitals, contact us at (602) 457-6222.
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Confidentially reviewed by Attorney Mark Breyer