In December of 2012 I was in a car accident. We reached a settlement and I signed the release 3 weeks ago. My lawyer has already received the settlement check from the insurance company. I was told Wednesday that my lawyer is still needing to negotiate my medical bills. How long should this process take? I understand that he is a busy man with other clients, but I last sought treatment at the end of April. So my bills have not changed and he has the records of which entities I owe money. I was told that it "hopefully will be finished by Friday"? At what point has my lawyer had enough time and is there anything I can do to speed this up? I need to move on with my life as does my family.
It sounds like you have a great lawyer!
A lawyer can't begin to negotiate bills until he knows what the setlement is. And he actually doesn't have to. But in taking the time to do this, every dollar he can knock off is saving you a dollar. Doctors aren't always quick to respond, so be a bit patient. He's helping you.
I understand your frustration, but negotiating your medical liens can be a lengthy process characterized by a lot of back and forth, especially since it sounds like your attorney is trying his or her best to negotiate the most favorable terms of each lien, which means more money in your pocket. Also, I commend your lawyer for doing this. I know several attorneys and firms which simply take their costs and fees and give you the rest. While initially the lump sum settlement looks bigger, you the client are left to deal with collection agencies, etc. re the unpaid liens. My advice to you is be patient and let your attorney continue to represent your best interests. And don't forget to say "thank you" when you get your settlement check.
Your lawyer does not have to negotiate your medical bills. He is doing you a favor by trying to get as much of the settlement money as possible into your pocket and not into the pockets of the doctor and hospital. In that regard, I would thank him for looking out for you and give him as much time as he needs; after all, he is trying to save YOU money.
I also negotiate with medical providers and health insurance companies. This is an important part of the case that can increase the amount of your net settlement. Also you do not want those medical providers pursuing claims against you long after settlement. I urge you to be patient with your attorney. However, if nothing has happened in another week, I suggest you make an appointment to see him or her in person to determine where he is the process.
I agree with the other responses that you need to let your attorney negotiate to try to reduce what you owe to your medical providers and resolve any liens. This saves you time and expense and the attorney is obligate to satisfy any liens out of your recovery. At best, he could hold enough to cover all the bills in his trust account and disburse anything that may be left after legal fees and medical liens to you. At a later date, he could then disburse to you the funds remaining after satisfying all medical liens &/or bills. The process can take several months especially if he is dealing with Medicare or Medicaid or if he's asking for a substantial reduction in your dr or hospital bills.
If you were injured less than 9 months ago and your lawyer has already helped you settle your case, your lawyer is doing you a very good job. If time is more important to you than money, instruct your attorney to pay the total face amount of the bills immediately and to deliver your settlement check to you immediately. Otherwise, be patient, and allow your lawyer to continue doing a good job for you.
We, along with many other attorneys, attempt to proactively negotiate medical liens well in advance of any settlement for two reasons: first, as you are learning, it often takes a long time to resolve them, and secondly, it gives the client a better sense of exactly how much they are able to take home from any potential settlement. In this case, if your attorney was unable to do so for whatever reason, I would suggest you ask him to hold back the full amount for the medical bills and release the rest. Then when he is finished negotiating and paying off the liens, he can release any remaining funds, but at least you're not waiting on the full amount. Of course, I have no idea whether or what you will have remaining after withholding for medical bills, so this is a conversation you should have with your attorney, but you should also be realistic about your particular situation. Good luck to you.
This does not sound unreasonable. It's possible the medical providers have filed liens against your recovery proceeds which need to be negotiated before they are paid out. He also may be doing you a favor by reducing your bills, therefore increasing your share of the recovery proceeds and preventing you from dealing with collections. This is especially important if you have limited settlement funds, in which case the bills will eat up a large part of your share of the recovery.
One of the many things we do not know about your case is what the settlement amount was, how many medical providers were there, and how large is each bill. This is what your attorney is having to look at and often the more medical providers there are and the size of the bill makes the total negotiation process take more time to complete. As has been pointed out by my colleagues, this effort is for the client's benefit.
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