Many people who seek compensation for their injuries in Arizona are surprised to discover that a doctor’s office, car repair shop, or other party has sought a “lien” against their settlement – and that, as a result, the amount of money they’ll receive is lower than they thought it would be.
Because a lien can affect your expectations and plans for the future, it’s important to understand what liens are and how they work.
WHAT IS A PERSONAL INJURY LIEN?
A lien allows another party to assert a claim to part of any settlement you receive in a personal injury case. Often, a lien is filed by a party to whom you owe money. For instance, if you are treated by a hospital after your injury and you haven’t been able to pay the bill, the hospital may file a lien in order to ensure it gets paid out of any settlement you receive.
While medical liens are one of the most common types seen in personal injury cases, they’re not the only type of lien available. For instance, if you owe money to a repair shop for fixing your car after a crash, the repair shop might also decide to file a lien.
CONSENSUAL VS. NON-CONSENSUAL LIENS
You have the option to agree to a lien with another party before the lien is filed. These liens are known as “consensual” liens. One type of consensual lien called a medical lien can be a useful way to obtain medical care when you do not have health insurance and cannot afford to pay for the care out of pocket.
It’s important to talk to your lawyer about consensual liens before you agree to them. The amount of the lien should be weighed against the amount of compensation you can reasonably expect in the case.
Not all liens are consensual. Some parties will seek additional payments through a lien, even after you believe the bill has already been settled.
For instance, hospitals take the position that Arizona law allows them to seek a lien even after your insurance has already paid for your treatment. The lien is asserted to recover the difference between the amount the hospital charged and what insurance agreed to pay. This practice is called “balance billing,” and it can be extremely distressing for those who thought their medical bills had been paid. An experienced personal injury attorney will discuss the current state of Arizona law and the amount, if any, owed to the hospital.
HOW DOES A LIEN AFFECT MY SETTLEMENT?
In an ideal world, your settlement would be easy to obtain and easy to understand. In practice, however, liens can drastically delay your settlement, reduce the final dollar amount, and make your entire case more difficult to complete.
Often, liens amount to only a few hundred dollars. In other situations, however, they can be substantially more.
In addition, you may not realize a lien exists until it is paid or the lien holder releases it.
Choosing an attorney with experience in liens is critical. The lawyer can direct you to avoid liens, and if a lien is recorded, to fight to ensure that those who file liens receive no more than that to which they are entitled.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. At the Folger Law Firm we are dedicated to helping our clients obtain the compensation they deserve.
We work on a contingency basis, so if you don’t get paid, we don’t get paid.