I do not practice in California. In Massachusetts, many good personal injury attorneys would collect your medical bills on your behalf and submit them to the appropriate insurer for payment. You might consider consulting with a personal injury attorney in your area and asking specifically about whether they would provide this service.
Assuming you know which insurer is responsible for the bills, and you want to go it alone, I would:
1. Send the insurer a copies of bills as you receive them,
2. Request a check payable to the provider, but mailed to you
3. Submit the payment directly to the provider
4. In the event payments are behind, stay in close contact with the provider's billing departments. Most won't send you to collections if you keep them apprised of your efforts to get money from the insurer.
The facts presented in your case are somewhat limited, but I'll give it a shot.
First, the insurance company is not typically obligated to pay off liens, unless they have been sent specific notice of such liens. In that case, typically, the Ins. Co. will write the check to you AND the lien holders.
Secondly, if the Ins. Co. settles with you, they will most often do so with a release. In that release, insurance companies wil usually have a provision that says you will remain responsible for all liens (medical legal and otherwise). Thus, generally speaking, you remain responsible for paying your medical providers.
Whenever I handle PI cases, I make sure that I am in touch with the medical providers, to make sure that the matter does not end up in collection. This may mean signing off on an acknowledgement of lien in favor of the medical provider, but at least it satves off the collection issues. Then, when you get close to a settlement, you can address the amount of the lien and what the providers may be willing to negotiate that amount down to. In the end, you may be best served by an expereinced lawyer who can help you navigate these sometimes tricky waters.
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