You have just settled your Florida personal injury claim and it’s now time to pay the medical bills that you’ve incurred as a result of the accident. If you’re like most people, this is when you realize how much will be deducted from your settlement.
We are often asked by clients whether they have to pay all of their medical bills out of their settlement. In some cases, the client would prefer to deal with the bills on their own, whether it be by setting up a payment plan with the doctor or otherwise. The answer to this question is “yes”, the bills do need to be paid out of the settlement, and there are several reasons for this.
The Medical Provider May Have a Valid Lien Against Your Claim
A lien is a legal right that allows a person or entity to take part of your settlement as payment for a debt that you owe. Liens are very common in personal injury cases when a creditor pays costs upfront for accident-related services. When this occurs, the creditor merely defers receipt of payment for the services until your case has settled.
For example, in Florida, many hospitals are considered to automatically be “lien” hospitals by virtue of local code which establishes the county’s lien law. This means that if you receive treatment from one of these hospitals, there will automatically be a lien asserted against the proceeds of your case, which will have to be satisfied upon resolution of your case.
Other medical providers may also have liens and/or a valid “assignment of benefits.” An assignment of benefits is typically a document presented to the patient for his/her signature prior to treatment. This allows the provider to be paid any benefits you may receive to satisfy the cost of the services they have provided. Health insurers also typically assert a lien against settlement proceeds to recover for any treatment the insurer has paid for.
The Medical Provider May Have a “Letter of Protection”
A Letter of Protection is an agreement whereby the medical provider agrees to provide medical services to you and defer receipt of any payment for those services until your claim has resolved. Letters of Protection allow those people who don’t have health insurance or the money to pay for medical services to still get the treatment they need after an accident. A Letter of Protection is a signed document, usually agreed to by you and your attorney. This then acts as a lien that must then be satisfied at the conclusion of your case.
In addition to these reasons, your attorney also has an ethical obligation to protect debts that he/she knows about that arise from your case. This includes protecting the rights of all medical providers, and others who may have advanced services or money (as in the case of a legal funding loan) to you arising out of your case.
If you have questions about your Florida accident case, you can download our Free Reports:
- Your Guide to Florida Car Accident Claims;
- The Ultimate Guide to Florida Slip and Fall Cases; and
- 5 Medical Mistakes That Will Destroy Your Personal Injury Case
which is available at our website, or you can click the link provided. You can also contact us at (813)419-3866 to talk directly to a Ruskin Personal Injury Attorney now.