For the most part, when a personal injury attorney accepts a case, they take charge of everything related to it, and the client is largely free from responsibility other than medical treatments and staying out of harm’s way. Attorneys prefer it this way so that they can ensure everything is being handled properly, and to give the client the best possible chance of success.
However, there are times where your attorney may ask you to do something yourself, for a specific reason. One example of this is when clients are asked to obtain their own medical records after a car accident–while it may come across as lazy on the part of the attorney, in reality, there is a very compelling reason for doing so.
An Effort to Save Clients Money from Medical Expenses
To put it simply, if a patient goes to a hospital for treatment, they will typically go through their personal health insurance to facilitate treatment and payment. Because of this well-established process, healthcare providers have worked with insurers over the years to set pre-determined caps on the costs of certain treatments, procedures, supplies, etc. This helps reduce the number of discrepancies and keep up the pace of patient flow.
However, when certain hospitals become aware of the fact that you are being represented by an attorney (which they will if an attorney or firm requests records), they start to operate under a more expensive set of rules. At that point, they know that they can bypass insurance protocols and charge you much, much more for the same treatment. The New York Times recently ran a story detailing this nefarious practice; in one of their examples, a woman from Indiana was charged over $12,000 for treatment that would have cost $2,500 through her insurance.
Now, to be clear, if you have extremely limited insurance or none at all, you will have to get your treatments through a medical lien anyway. If you have any sort of personal health insurance, however, you should utilize it.
Attorneys Must Follow the Law
Part of the reason why an attorney may suggest obtaining your own records and bills is that they have no way to change the distribution of funds once the hospital has put a lien on your settlement. Once it’s done, it’s done.
Each state’s laws regarding liens and settlement funds are different, but we’ll use our home state of Nevada as an example. Nevada state law expressly states that attorneys “must withhold funds from a client’s recovery in which a third-party creditor has a claim or lien against the funds.” NRCP 1.15 (d), Nevada Ethics Opinion No. 31, Achrem v. Expressway Plaza Limited, 112 Nev. 737, 917 P.2d 447(1996). If there is a medical lien on your settlement, it must be paid in full before anyone else gets their share, including your attorney.
Many clients may feel jaded after having to pay high medical costs on top of the standard 33.3% legal fees, but that is why attorneys will suggest the idea in the first place. This concept is just one example of why it is so important for clients to have constant communication with their attorneys so that everyone is always on the same page.
Have Questions? Contact Qualified Personal Injury Attorneys
If you have any more questions about the claim process or would just like to talk with trusted personal injury attorneys, simply give Van Law Firm a call as soon as possible. Our award-winning staff has been defending the rights of accident victims for almost a decade, and with over 500 5-star reviews, that hard work is not going unheralded. Call the office nearest you for more information and a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.