Can a lawyer withhold my settlement money because there is a lien placed on me? if so is there any way around it?

Asked over 5 years ago - Boston, MA

I was the passenger in a sever automobile accident, and my medical bills were around 24,000 dollars. i had no health insurance at the time, and my friend was the driver of the car so i was not going to go after him. All i wanted was money from the car insurance company. They gave me a 10,000 dollar settlement on February 18, 2008. My lawyer tells me he's trying to negotiate the lien, but has been telling me this for the past 4 months. At this point, i would rather take my share of the money and be held responsible for the lien on my own. He tells me there is no way he can give me my money until the lien is taken care of. Is this True? Is there any way i can fire him and take full responsiblity of the lien, collect my money and deal with it myself? Or, am i stuck waiting on him?

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Bruce H Murray

    Contributor Level 11

    Answered . Unfortunately your questions give rise to many more questions than answers. Generally speaking your lawyer is correct. The lien is something that has to be paid. If your attorney were to release the money and leave it up you to satisfy, and you didn't pay it, he could end up being responsible for the lien. The first question is how much is the lien? I agree it should be negotiated, and it seems as though 4 months should be enought\ time. Another question is why the settlement was only $10,000, when your medical bills were over $24,000? If there were other injured parties and that was all the insurance that was available, then there may be additional recovery sources from underinsured coverage on the policy. If you own a car or if one of your household members owns a car, there would be additional coverage of at least $10,000 or more depending the the policy limits. This is something you should definitely ask your attorney to look into. If you would like to discuss this further, feel free to contact me.

  2. Andrew Daniel Myers

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . Reading between the lines of your question I can only assume that it is a MassHealth lien for the payment of accident related medical bills that is holding up the settlement. Those liens absolutely must be addressed prior to final settlement and/or disbursement or attorney and client are liable.
    Having said that, however, there are steps toward the resolution of that lien. The first is to obtain a breakdown of the full and complete lien. In other words, the attorney submits a HIPAA compliant authorization signed by you and some other paperwork, and then MassHealth sends out an itemization of each item that was submitted for payment and how much was paid. I always have the client then go over that itemization because it is not unusual for there to be payments for charges that are not related to the accident. MassHealth will remove them. After the lien reduction, there is an additional form to be submitted to MassHealth to request potential compromise of the lien. Find out where in the process this is, and also get a copy of that itemized lien so that you can make sure all of the charges truly relate to your car accident.
    Again, I can only assume that this is the type of lien that is holding up the settlement. It can take time to resolve these things. But, they can be expedited.

  3. Henry Lebensbaum

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . What you suggest is fraudulent conduct, and any person who would let you get away with it would be abetting you.

  4. Kelly A. Broadbent

    Contributor Level 12

    Answered . Depending on the type of lien, the other party may be on the settlement check. If this is the case, your attorney would not be able to cash the check until the lien is released by the lienholder. Even if you fired your attorney, the insurance company will not release the funds until they have confirmation that the lien has been resolved.

Related Topics


A lien gives a creditor certain rights to a debtor's property in order to ensure payment of a debt. Liens can be either voluntary or involuntary.

Howard Robert Roitman

Medicare Liens

Federal law generally prohibits Medicare from paying for any item or service where payment can reasonably be expected from another "primary" source within 120 days.

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