Medical Provider Liens
A lot of times it is easier as an attorney to obtain a
personal injury or medical malpractice settlement from a defendant or an
insurance company that it is to actually give that money to a client. One of
the most common hurdles that an attorney and his client has to jump over is the
payment of any valid liens. Essentially a lien is a claim by another person or
company for some or all of the money that an injured person recovers in
settlement or judgment of a personal injury or medical malpractice laws. Common
liens are ones by Medicare, Medicaid, Teachers’ and State Employees’ Health
Plans, ERISA, and Worker’s Compensation. One of the oldest and most common of
the liens that can attach are those for medical providers. N.C.G.S 44-49 and N.C.G.S. 44-50
allow any person or company who provides drugs, medical supplies, ambulance
services, physician, dentist, nurse or hospital services to claim a lien. In
order to have a valid lien (or “perfect” the lien), the medical provider must
furnish medical records upon request without charge. A provider is allowed to
charge for copies of medical records under N.C.G.S. 90-410 and N.C.G.S. 90-411, but if it does so,
it cannot have a lien on its bills for services. The lien rights are waived
even if the bill for the copies is never paid or if the medical provider takes
back the copying charges before they are paid. In addition, the provider must
provide copies of the medical bills without charge. Further, the provider must
give written notice saying that they are claiming a lien. That notice must be
sent to the attorney for the injured person. Finally, the lien can only be
valid if the medical treatment claimed is related to injuries that is part of
the settlement or judgment. If the medical charges are for a condition that has
nothing to do with the conditions at issue in a lawsuit, the provider can’t get
a lien on those funds.
So when considering a settlement for a lawsuit, always determine what liens are outstanding and what you will be required to pay out of any settlement.
–Bradley A. Coxe
is a practicing attorney in Wilmington, NC with Hodges & Coxe PC who
specializes in Personal Injury, Medical Malpractice, Homeowner's Associations,
Contract and Real Estate disputes and all forms of Civil Litigation.
Please contact him at (910) 772-1678.