Typically, in a situation like this I would hold the full balance of my client's medical bills in my trust account until I could negotiate down those bills as much as possible, then send the remainder of the funds to my client. I would agree with other respondents that your attorney will usually have better success negotiating than you will; however, being an informed and concerned plaintiff is certainly a good thing. Although it sounds like your attorney is trying to help you retain as much of your settlement as possible, that portion is technically your money and if you would rather take the chance of negotiating those bills on your own, I would happily give you the money with a warning about the consequences of not resolving the bills. Unless you have a reason to believe your attorney is not acting with your best interest in mind, though, I'd suggest letting him handle it for you.
I doubt you'll get a better negotiated rate for those bills than your lawyer did. Remember you've had the option all along to pay the bills yourself so they wouldnt get reported on your credit, so its not your lawyers fault they got reported. Your lawyers fee is also set at whatever percentage you agreed to; negotiating the bills more doesn't help him - it only helps you. I know its common to just blame lawyers and imply that they're crooked, as you have here, but it sounds like youre lawyer has done exactly what he should have. Sounds like you have a good lawyer. Just because you didn't get things "your" way isn't a reason to throw your lawyer under the bus...
Unless there is a lien, the attorney can turn the money over to you for you to negotiate it yourself. This is not his money and unless you have an agreement that permits him to take a portion for negotiating your liens down (which in my opinion would be unconscionable) he can not take the difference.
--I was wondering if its possible to get the medical expenses paid out to me, so that i may negotiate my own medical bill reduction?--
Assuming (1) that you did not have your lawyer sign an agreement with any of your providers to "protect" their bill, and (2) that there are no hospital or other liens filed against you, then you can direct your lawyer to pay the money to you, and you can deal directly with your medical providers. The first situation typically arises when you see a chiropractor who cooperates with your lawyer, and the second typically arises when you have significant hospital expenses.
I wish you luck negotiating your bills down.
Chris Rouse firstname.lastname@example.org www.savannahdisabilitylawyer.com Please note this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on since each situation is fact-specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. You are strongly advised to contact an attorney to obtain legal advice before taking or refraining from taking any action with respect to the above.
Your situation is unfortunate. The discussion of the actual breakdown of a settlement is something that should occur prior to the acceptance of any settlement. It is not uncommon for an attorney to hold proceeds from a settlement for unpaid medical bills while the medical bills are being negotiated. A 50% reduction in medical expenses can occur in certain cases but it depends a lot on the medical provider's willingness to negotiate. One this is certain, a lawyer cannot hold out money from a settlement for the specific purpose of paying medical expenses and then keep a portion of it without the express agreement from the client.
In short, yes you can have those funds paid to you and deal with the medical providers directly. In some scenarios, that could be preferable over having the attorney deal with it, but typically it's better to have all of these issues wrapped up at the same time by the attorney handling the case. The practice of having your attorney reduce your medical bills is for your benefit, not his. This is aimed at putting more of the settlement in your pocket as personal injury settlements rarely fully compensate the injured party; that's why it is called "settling". You'll notice that the attorney does not get paid extra for what often is very time-consuming and frustrating work. Your attorney will give you guidance on what to do, but ultimately your decision is whether to take the work and risk upon yourself in getting the bill collectors to stop contacting you/resolving the bills.
*Attorney Thomas Andrew Miller (678-907-3600) provided this Reply which is intended to be helpful to the Asker and the Avvo Community, but it does not constitute legal advice and does not create any attorney-client relationship. You are urged to seek the advice of an attorney or, in some cases, a tax professional, before taking any action. **Was this Answer helpful? Please click to give the Answer a Helpful Vote or make it the Best Answer!
I agree with what most of the attorneys have stated here and wanted to respond to the "additional information" you provided. As another attorney mentioned, it is possible that your attorney has issued a letter of protection on your behalf to some of these medical providers. If your attorney has done so, and then he pays you the settlement funds, these medical providers could come after him to satisfy your bills. Perhaps this is (part of) the reason why he stated that he is responsible for dividing the settlement proceeds. Personally, it sounds as if this attorney has done what he is supposed to do. I'd go back to him a second time and ask for additional clarification about why he says that he is responsible for dividing your settlement. It's okay to ask a question more than twice when you are perplexed. It's a complicated area of the law, and that's why you hired this guy...let him earn his coin! Also, some providers are rather notorious for not reducing their bills (just in case you decide to negotiate on your own). Good luck to you.
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