Depends on how your fee agreement is worded and any financial responsibility forms you signed. Take a look at your fee agreement with your attorney.
Contact me for further detailed questions and answers. 215-561-0877 DISCLAIMER: Matthew Solomon is licensed to practice law in both the State of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey.This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. This answer does not constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship.
Without knowing more, I am not going to place blame on you or your attorney. If you owe the money, just pay it or understand it may affect your credit. Most healthcare providers will work with you as long as you are making payments.
I'm not sure exactly what you would pursue further. Did your attorney deduct these amounts from your settlement? If so, you should inisist that he pay what he said he would pay. However, if deductions were not made, there's really not damage since if your attorney had paid these bills, they would have been deducted from the settlement and you would have received that much less money. It would have been nice if he had taken care of this for you, but really what is the damage? In this situation, I would pay the bills and chalk up this attorney's level of client service to experience.
Generally speaking, unless there was a lien on those medical expenses, attorneys often do not pay the medical expenses out of the settlement. If there was a lien, then the attorney would have had to pay those out of the settlement. Medical bills are generally the responsibility of the injured party because the negligent party's insurance company does not pay bills as they accrue. They pay one lump sum settlement at the end for what they determine is related if they had liability. The injured party is typically responsible for paying any outstanding medical expenses out of the recovery because that is what the settlement is intended to cover: medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and any other damages you incur as a result of the accident.
You should contact your attorney as to whether there was a lien.
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You should pay the bills unless the lawyer sent you a letter or signed a distribution sheet that said he would pay all bills from your case proceeds. However, you will not owe the full amount on the face of the bill. You would only owe the reduced balance based on PA law. You would only owe an amount equal to 110% of the medicare rate for each bill under normal circumstances, unless the bills relate to treatment for trauma. My impression is that these were not trauma related but later diagnostic testing.
You should have been sending copies of these bills to your lawyer each time you received them, or called your lawyer to report you had received bills for unpaid medical bills. That being said, your lawyer should have requested copies from you and also from all providers he knew had treated you.
In any case, you could probably call each provider and attempt to negotiate a settlement telling them you are aware you would not owe 100% under PA law. Many providers will accept an approximate 50-70% on these bills if you just offer it. Make sure you get confirmation in writing before sending your check. Keep in mind these bills are quite low. If I had been your lawyer, I would at least help you negotiate the remaining bills as a courtesy, but each office handles such matters its own way. You should look at your paperwork including your fee agreement, letters and your final disbursement sheet to see what the lawyer promised to do for you to determine if there was any promise to pay your medical bills out of your proceeds. In any case, the bills probably would have come out of your share of the proceeds, which is the same result as you paying them now. It probably just seems more painful to actually write the check yourself after the case is finished than it is for your lawyer to simply withdraw the funds to pay the providers prior to you getting your final disbursment. We try to pay all known medical providers but sometimes we simply have no way to know a client has treated with a certain provider because the client has not told us. In my office's final distribution sheet we include a provision that says the client is responsible for all unpaid medical bills, because sometimes the client fails to inform us there are unpaid bills. Also, if you (or your lawyer) ever signed a fee protection letter for a provider, you may end up being on the hook for the full balance. Ask each provider if you ever signed such a document before you start your negotiations with the provider to reduce the bills. Good luck!
Legal disclaimer: The statement above provided by Sandra Worthington, Esq. is general information and not intended to be a legal opinion because not all the facts are provided. The person requesting information and all others reading the answer should retain an attorney who is permitted by the state bar within the jurisdiction who can examine the complete facts and provide a legal opinion on your case. All information provided in the above answer and other information provided by Sandra Worthington, Esq. and Worthington Law Group does not create an attorney/client relationship within any state or under Federal law.
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