Dealing with expenses and damages after an accident can be time-consuming and very confusing, especially if you accrue medical bills from an injury. If you are not at fault for the accident, you may decide to file lawsuit or fight for a personal injury settlement. Should you win your personal injury case, you may receive compensation for damages and medical expenses.
Under certain circumstances, the party that paid for the medical expenses following your accident may make a claim against the money you won in your case. These medical liens are very common, so it’s important to know what to expect. We’ll cover several different types of medical liens below.
Hospital and Medical Provider Liens
So what is a medical lien? It can be defined as a claim made by an entity (federal or state government, health insurance companies, hospitals) to recover the money it spent on your medical treatment after an accident. This is done through repayment using your settlement proceeds.
In Colorado, hospitals can file a lien to recover an injured person’s treatment costs. You may be asked by your medical provider to sign a lien letter which confirms your agreement to a lien against your settlement winnings. In order for this medical provider lien to remain valid, hospitals must file the lien in the recorder’s office in the county where the facility is located within 180 days after your release. The lien must also have the correct dates of service, your proper address and name and the proper address and name of the hospital.
If these statutes and any others are not met, the lien cannot be enforced.
Workers’ Compensation Liens
If you’ve been hurt in a work-related accident, then it’s possible for a worker’s compensation lien to be issued. In the case that your medical bills or lost wages are paid through Colorado’s workers’ comp fund, you may need to use your settlement monies to repay these expenses. Be sure to consult a workers’ compensation attorney to make sure Colorado’s workers’ comp laws allow a lien to be asserted.
Typically, the government holds the right to be repaid for your medical care if you’ve received money for your injuries from another party. However, it does generally depend on the type of program that you used — Medicaid, Medicare, Veterans Administration. Each government program has specific rights in terms of placing a lien, so consulting an attorney is advisable.
Hiring a personal injury attorney will not only help you understand Colorado’s specific rules regarding medical liens, but it can also lead to a reduced claim amount. For example, a lawyer may create a fund intended for the benefit of a third party. Using this “fund doctrine,” they are entitled to reimbursement from the fund in the form of attorney’s fees.
If you’ve been injured in an accident in which you were not at fault, it is wise to consult a qualified injury attorney so you can settle your personal injury case and any resulting medical liens. Colorado’s lien laws can become very complex, depending on the circumstance, so contact Heuser & Heuser for help with your case.