I'm going to start my search for a PI lawyer next week.
I have about $22K that I'll have to repay insurance from a car accident (not my fault). Some people have told me attorneys can negotiate these down after a settlement is reached. Is this true? And if so, is there an "industry standard" discount or is a your-mileage-may vary situation?
Thank you for your response, Mr. Lassen. Just to clarify, I wouldn't be hiring the atty to just handle the liens, he (or she) would be handling all aspects of the claim, as I don't want to mess anything up.
Personal Injury Lawyer
Working with the medical providers to reduce liens is part of the overall job of a personal injury attorney. The liens need to be addressed before the settlement and not after. In part this is because there is more leverage pre settlement; medical providers have more incentive to consider realistic reduction in their billings when faced with the potential of the uncertainties of a trial, after which it is always a possibility they may get much less. Another reason the liens are negotiated before the settlement is so that when the final settlement agreement is signed, attorney and client have finality in knowing what all of the disbursement numbers are.
For all of the above reasons, obviously the settlement must be enough to address all of the medical bills, plus the accident victim's pain and suffering and potential for future residual issues.
While lien reduction is important, remember that the medical providers are the ones who provided treatment and healing. Also important is the fact that there is no personal injury claim without the medical documentation that is required to actually make a claim. The more thorough and articulate the providers are in documenting your injury and its effects, the better the potential for a settlement in your favor. So, lien reduction is a positive, but 'beating up on' the medical providers should be avoided.
Here are a few final points:
(1) The insurance industry's own statistics confirm that once an attorney is brought in to a claim, the value goes up.
(2) Your own attorney has a duty to thoroughly inform you as to all of the potential elements of recovery which the insurance company will not take time to tell you about.
(3) Settlements and judgments are forever. This means that once you obtain a judgment or settlement, this is the final disposition of the case forever. Should you later need additional treatment or discover an outstanding charge you did not know about, it is too late to go back.
(4) Be cautious trying to get an attorney to negotiate down their fee. Remember the old addage that 'you get what you pay for'. See (1) above - the attorney is adding value to the case, not taking value away. I think in 20+ years of representing personal injury clients only once have I lost a client because I refused to reduce my fee, and I did not consider it a loss.
My office handles personal injury and accident cases in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. And despite the procedural and legal differences between our states, the insurance claim handling standards aspects of this topic are relatively universal across the U.S.
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Personal Injury Lawyer
You should get a lawyer in your city who will not only negotiate down the medical bills to almost nothing, but you should negotiate a low contingency fee.
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Car / Auto Accident Lawyer
Most lawyers in Nevada who work in personal injury will attempt to negotiate liens with the medical providers to help the client get the most out of the settlement.
When I have a settlement, I will write to all of the providers and advise them of the settlement, the legal costs, and the outstanding medical bills. I also advise them of the amount I would like the client to recover. I then pro-rate the settlement (less the costs and client's share) between my office and the medical providers so we each take an equal percentage discount. Depending on the providers, they will agree, take no discount, or take less of a discount than I ask for.
We cannot force the providers to reduce their fees, but we aim to be fair to the client. If all else fails and we cannot come to an agreement between our office, the client and the medical providers, we can file an Action in Interpleader requesting the Court to order a distribution of the funds.
Hope this helps.
/s Donald Kudler
This answer does not create an attorney client relationship and does not constitute legal advice, but is solely the opinion of a Nevada Attorney.
Criminal Defense Attorney
Your are responsible for any medical bills you incur. When the settlement comes through, hopefully this will cover those costs. Your attorney will work to reduce those bills and in most cases will be able to do so. There is no standard reduction amount. In many cases it will depend on how much the settlement is.