Both prior answers are correct and i wish you luck in your new practice. If you don't mind some friendly advice: When I got my first job as a lawyer I remember walking into my new office to find a file on my desk. It was my first "personal injury" case. I opened the file and about half way through I found myself exclaiming - "Holy #^@#$ this guy needs an attorney....oh wait...I guess that is me." I've told you this so you won't feel alone. I also want you to know that your BEST resource right now is going to be through your local bar. Make friends with an attorney in your area who has been around for awhile and ask for assistance in a more confidential setting. You will find (and I think the quick responses here show) that other attorneys will bend over backwards to try to help you get on the right track. For the first time ever I am NOT checking the box that the questioner needs to hire an attorney. Don't hire one--- call one and invite them to lunch.
Call the billing department, explain the situation, and ask them, nicely, to forebear until you can resolve the case. At the same time, look at your own client's policy for med pay coverage that could be used to pay or defray the ER bill. No guarantee, but many billing departments will work with you if treated courteously.
If the client does not have medpay to cover these interim bills or any other medical coverage to cover treatment of the injuries, the providers' offices are usually good about holding off collections, especially if you give them a lien.
If you plan on regularly practicing injury/plaintiff's law in California consider joining Consumer Attorneys of California. CAOC has an excellent listserv with hundreds of lawyers willing to help each other, and actively doing so each day.
I answer questions on Avvo to try to help get you pointed in the right direction. But, I am not your attorney. Beware, my answers here are general, limited, incomplete, and can never be as complete, thorough, or accurate as one I would give to a client after hearing all of the facts and details of my client's situation and applying the correct law. Also, I am admitted to practice law only in California and all of my answers are intended exclusively for the Golden State.
In this situation my office will usually contact the hospital billing department and explain the circumstances and request they accept a lien, and freeze collection activities. Some will and some won't. Does your client have any Med Pay?
This question -- and others like it -- should be posted on a ListServe (CAOC is a good one), not here.
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I could talk for hours if not days on the differences between how physicians and lawyers are trained... with one of the big topics being that when a physician is let loose on the world after four years of college... four years of medical school... and a three to seven year residency (training) program, depending on the specialty... that physician is ready to meet many of the challenges he or she will face in his or her own office from day one... and even then, the newly minted physician should already have a well-established network of "older" physicians ready to help 24/7... when I started out on my own working in urgent cares where I was the only physician, I was very comforted to know that I had made friends with all of the ER docs at the county hospital... and I would call them any time of day for help should I need it... and they were always, 100% of the time, helpful.
When I started the practice of law... fresh out of law school... no residency... and worst of all no real world training provided in school... I made sure my network of long in the tooth attorneys was well established... during law school, I had joined every bar association and lawyer's group I could (memberships for students was dirt cheap)... upon getting my bar card, I maintained membership in most of those associations... and to this day, I have my little black book of "real lawyers" to call when my clients need0 one... no physician or lawyer should ever feel he or she has to perform this profession alone or re-invent the wheel... it's called "practice" and it's a work in progress for the entire career.
Oh, as to the post... communication with the biller is the best way to start... and then look into allowing a lien... but of course having a mentor or two or ten would really really help.
Paul J. Molinaro, M.D., J.D.
Attorney at Law, Physician
Fransen & Molinaro, LLP
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Contact the hospital. Most hospitals would prefer to work with you instead of selling the acount receivable to someone for a lesser price. They have a statutory lien for emergency treatment.
You can arrange for a lien with the Hospital, which may be prereable to them.
You could contact a legal fiancing company and essentially take out a loan to pay the bill, is so negotiate a reduced amount to the medical bills, rarely are they paid at full value by anyone.
Alternatively there are also charitable organizations that will help certain persons depending on socioeconomic status.
Mr. Abronson and Mr. Woods have hit the nail on the head.
I sometimes escalate things by suggesting they're committing a violation of the FCRA and/or FDCRA. Often dropping those two statutes slows them down as well.
You have an ethical duty not to take cases you are not competent to handle. Suggestions made here already are good-find local injury lawyer who you can interface with, and work with as appropriate. When I started out a long time ago, I found local attys in several different practice areas that I could seek advice from, and refer cases to when they were too complex or serious for me to assume full responsibility for. I co counseled on some, and learned a lot doing that. The client got excellent representation, I learned, and the fees were split fairly.
Im not necessarily in agreement with the advice given on this specific case. There is much more info needed to recommend what you should do or not. There is risk in contacting the hospital. The case may have problems, there may be limited ins, etc. Your client could end up with little or nothing depending upon any deal you make with the hospital. Hospitals usually don't send these to collection that soon, so Id be careful about contacting them right now. You don't want the hospital to perfect a lien.
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