I would like to address some of the questions I get about liens from lawyers and clients. We are very experienced in this regard and handle them in almost every case. See here for a presentation I gave on it last year; you can also see my video on how to handle liens.
These are my top ten tips on addressing liens:
- Ask if it is properly asserted. Was it delivered by certified mail? There can be no lien for in-state, non-ERISA health insurance benefits.
- Is the amount accurate? Many times medical providers and Medicaid have incorrect bills. Sometimes, the amount referred to in the lien is not related to the incident in question. Make sure you always check for accuracy.
- Start your work on liens early – give yourself plenty of time and do not wait until the case is settled. Start contacting lien providers to see whether they will lower them and make sure they know how much you want a recovery by sending them the first low offer.
- Always try to reduce the lien; I usually aim for one third. Most lien providers are responsive and will reduce them. Prepare your arguments on why they should lower them — for example, the bills are too high, maybe they would take less with insurance, a lawyer would collect, etc.
- However, do not be too unfair in what you ask for: this medical provider - doctor/nurse/PT/chiro - helped your client and you want them to advocate for them.
- If you get to the point where you cannot reduce a lien that should be reduced, you can file a Motion to Adjudicate Lien in court. The court has the authority to establish a fair value of the lien. For example, if a medical provider saw someone once and billed $10,000, that is not fair and can be easily denied. Let me know if you would like a form motion; I am happy to email it to you.
- Use the Illinois or Missouri state lien reduction statutes — these powerful tools ensure a claimant gets half the net recovery after attorney’s fees and expenses. It also makes sure that the lien holder cannot later sue your client. I can send you the statutes and my Excel spreadsheets that calculate the pro rata lien reductions – just contact me.
- Always speak with your client and explain what liens are and how they relate to their case. This will help them understand how they received benefits of the lien and how they are related to their settlement.
- Liens are positive because when creditors assert liens that mean your client does not have anyone chasing them to get paid when the case is over. It can make sure that the client is not responsible for any charges.
- Do not be afraid of ERISA liens. Often the lien holder will change their mind and not file suit. I leave the ERISA lien in the trust account and follow up in a few months.
See this clip for my presentation.