One important aspect of handling a personal injury claim, and maximizing the financial recovery of the client, lies in negotiating and resolving medical liens. Often times, people who suffer personal injuries due to the negligence of another do not have insurance. Other times, an injured person may have insurance but that insurance has a large deductible or insufficient coverage. Either way, the injured person may face significant medical bills, and collection, long before he or she receives any compensation for his or her injuries.
This ordeal can become overwhelming, especially without the assistant of a personal injury lawyer. In addition to dealing with the pain and suffering of the injury itself, claimants may be faced with lost wages as well as mounting medical bills. The reality is that healthcare providers want to be paid and unsympathetic to the injured person’s predicament. Indeed, providers will often hire a collection company to recover their bills within a few months of treatment (which of course, may affect one’s credit). Moreover, some providers, generally chiropractors, will even go as far as to ask the patient to sign a document that purports to transfer to the provider the right to receive funds from a future personal injury recovery.
In Missouri, an assignment of a personal injury claim is void. According to the recent case of Huey v. Gary Meek, dba Meek Chiropractic (Mo. App. S.D. 2013) the appellate court declared that a chiropractor’s “consensual lien” was void because it violated Missouri’s public policy against assignment of personal injury claims. Accordingly, without the help of a personal injury lawyer who knows the law, injured persons may pay bills they are not legally required to pay.
Further, Missouri has a healthcare lien statute, which is Section 430.225 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. Pursuant to this statute, if the liens of such health practitioners, hospitals, clinics or other institutions exceed fifty percent of the amount due the patient, every health care practitioner, hospital, clinic or other institution giving notice of its lien shall share in up to fifty percent of the net proceeds due the patient, in the proportion that each claim bears to the total amount of all other liens of health care practitioners, hospitals, clinics or other institutions. “Net proceeds”, as used in this section, means the amount remaining after the payment of contractual attorney fees, if any, and other expenses of recovery.
What this means is that the injured party will never have to pay more than fifty percent of the net proceeds for a claim (and that all providers are entitled to only their pro rata share of the total bills). For instance, assume an injured party hires a personal injury lawyer for a 1/3 contingent fee and he wishes to settle his claim for Fifteen Thousand Dollars ($15,000.00), but has medical bills that total ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00). Pursuant to this scenario, assuming there are no costs, the medical provider is only entitled to receive Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00). This situation results in 1/3 for the attorney, 1/3 for the provider, and 1/3 for the injured client. Accordingly, without this statute, injured parties would often get zero recovery.