SETTING UP YOUR RECOVERY Liens – every attorney that handles personal injury or workers’ compensation matters gets frustrated as our creative ways to obtain benefits for a client goes back into the hands of a provider who often gave limited support and called weekly for years prior to the recovery. Our client did not hire us to become the collection agent for the physician; however, that is just what we often become if we correctly follow the law with regard to disbursing funds. Once a case settles, often our work as attorneys assisting clients just gets started. Once you have identified and recovered for your client, maximized your clients result and ultimately settled or tried the case, often your number of hours invested in the case is just beginning. N.C.G.S. 44-49, 44-50 and 44-50.1 are just the start of the liens you must check for in deciding whether the funds you have recovered for your client go to your client. Begin Early to identify Lien issues Unfortunately, often the work an attorney puts into maximizing their clients recovery is little understood by our clients who are very frustrated with the time before they are able to actually see the recovery and results in frustration for both attorney and client unless the process starts early and is handled in such a way that the client understands early into the representation, what will be expected of them and ultimately who is going to be paid from the recovery and what amounts are going to the medical providers. We would contact our client early on in any representation and advise them of your need for what health insurance may be in play. One of your initial letters to our client, whether in an automobile, slip and fall or products liability action, is always concerning the requirement for their insurance information – or lack thereof. We request a copy of all of their insurance cards. Keep a copy of their cards in our file and make sure we advise the client of their need to keep you up to date with any changes to their insured status. Depending on the type of coverage we will often need to begin contacting the lien holder early so as to not delay your eventual disbursement. a. Identify the Type of Liens If you choose to handle a case without an attorney, or even if you do have an attorney, be aware that for any recovery for personal injury there are statutory liens against your recovery such as N.C.G.S. 44-49, 44-50 and 44-50.1; Medicaid; Medicare, workers’ compensation, tricare, and common law rights of subrogation in the form of ERISA. The unrepresented person must be aware that these recoveries are not options. The insurance company will not allow you to merely obtain the settlement without withholding the funds necessary to pay pursuant to statute or common law the medical provider liens. The most common call we have from people who have tried to handle their own cases is that AFTER settlement they were informed by the insurance adjuster that the amount INCLUDED their medical bills and that as a result they are unhappy with the settlement. Liens can be complicated. Attorneys who handle liens for a living often disagree about the best and most prudent way to handle liens. You can only imagine what happens when an insurance company decides whether to take a chance or pay your lien. Therefore, it is important to make sure you have identified what type of lien or right of subrogation may exist against your recovery early on and how you will handle that lien at the end of the case.
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