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What recourse is there if an attorney fails to uphold a lien?

Folsom, CA |

As a medical provider, we often see personal injury patients and always have the patient and their attorney endorse the lien, promising to withhold from the settlement our fees. Lately I've had a few attorneys fail to do this and tell me the case is settled and to go after the patient. Do I have recourse against the attorney?

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I am a little unclear on the question. In the beginning it says that you have the patient and the attorney endorse the lien, but it then says "lately I've had a few attorneys fail to do this". Does that mean fail to endorse the lien?

If an attorney signs a lien, and then fails to honor it, that is inappropriate. Your best course of action is to demand payment in writing, and if no response, make a formal complaint with the State Bar of CA. This should take care of it.

On the other hand, if the attoney did not sign the lien, it may change things.

Another scenario is the attorney signs the lien, but the client then instructs the attorney not to pay. In this scenario (in my opinion) the appropriate course of conduct is for the attorney to hold the money in his/her State Bar Trust account, and not withdraw it absent agreement or Court order.

Another option is to never take a lien again from the attorneys who have failed to honor them.

If you found this information helpful, please check the box indicating the same. Good luck.

Adam Sorrells
Injury Lawyer in Chico

Disclaimer: The following was not legal advice, and cannot be relied on. For informational purposes only. No attorney/client relationship formed. Time is of the essence.


It depends if the attorney knew about the lien. If there is a signed lien in place and the attorney knew about the lien, he has an ethical obligation to recognize the lien and try and work out a settlement of the lien or place the funds in interpleader if resolution of the lien cannot be worked out.

The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change


You have recourse against the attorney. An attorney has fiduciary duty to his client and to the lien holder. If the attorney fails to honor the lien he has signed, you may request payment. If the amount is below $ 7,500.00, you may take him or her to small claims court.

NOTE: This answer is made available by an attorney licensed to practice in the state of California. The communication is intended for educational purposes only. By using or participating in this site you understand that there is no attorney client privilege between you and the attorney responding.

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