Negotiating and Release of Physicians Liens
Before paying a physician lien, always try to negotiate the lien amount, especially if the recovery does not cover the amount due. It is entirely possible to convince the lien holder to accept a lesser amount as full and final payment. After all, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Listed below are some tactics that may be helpful in negotiating medical liens.
1. If the lien was attached before October 1, 2003, use non-payment as a bargaining chip.
Again, proceeds can be distributed to medical providers whose liens were established prior to October 1, 2003, however the injured party sees fit. Thus, lien holders are not guaranteed a pro-rata share. A lien holder may be willing to accept their pro-rata share as payment in full if there is a chance that they may not receive any money from the recovery.
2. If the lien was attached after October 1, 2003, try to negotiate the lien holder’s pro-rata share as payment in full.
While you will not have the leverage of “no payment at all” as you have with liens attached before October 1, 2003, you still have nothing to lose. Also, some medical providers may find it advantageous to forgo further litigation and merely accept their pro-rata share as payment in full.
3. Offer a little more than the lien holder’s pro-rata share as payment is full.
While this tactic may cause you to use some of your portion of the recovery, the medical provider may be inclined to accept the amount and forgo further legal remedies.
4. Try to negotiate liens before you reach a settlement or judgment when your medical bills are in dispute.
This is when you have all the leverage, so do not waste the opportunity. A medical provider will likely negotiate their lien amount if they see that their unwillingness to compromise will inhibit a settlement.
With this being said, please be aware of North Carolina’s statutory requirement that entitles all lien holders to a lien certification upon their request. Essentially, the lien certification allows the lien holder to audit the settlement agreement or judgment to ensure they are receiving their pro-rata share. The certification must include the total distribution to lien holders, the amount of each lien claimed, the percentage of each lien paid, and the total attorney’s fees. Therefore, when medical costs are not in dispute, forgo this tactic.
5. Argue for actual medical costs.
Medical providers often include charges that are not purely related to treatment. For example, hospitals may charge for room and board and other service fees. Try to negotiate these costs as they are usually overpriced. Furthermore, these costs may not be included in the settlement or judgment; therefore, you should argue that they should not be included in the lien.
6. Be aware of the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations provides a time limit as to when a party can bring a claim. If the statute of limitations has run (generally 3 years from the payment of medical expenses) on the underlying debt, a medical provider will likely accept their pro-rata share as payment in full.
7. Hire an attorney.
The tactics listed above are by no means exhaustive, and an experienced personal injury attorney will ensure that you receive the maximum net amount from your recovery. Negotiating with a medical provider can be difficult and stressful. Thus, hiring a personal injury attorney may help alleviate such stress and ensure that your recovery reaches its fullest potential.
Once a physician lien has been negotiated and paid, a release should be given. A release establishes that a lien no longer exists and that the medical provider has been paid their share of the recovery proceeds. Furthermore, when a lien is negotiated for a lesser amount, a release for the remaining balance should be sought. This ensures that the injured party will not be liable for the balance in the future.