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What Does a Medical Lien Mean for your Washington Personal Injury Case?

For personal injury victims in Washington state, working through the settlement process can be a long and confusing process, and having a medical lien placed on your settlement might sound bad, but what does it mean? 

A lien is a legal claim placed on something of value as a form of collateral for a debt owed by one person to the person holding the lien. Outside of personal injury law, the thing of value is often a piece of property. For example, if a contractor performs work on a home and the homeowner fails to pay the contractor, the contractor may place a lien on the home until the homeowner can pay off the debt.  

When Does A Medical Lien Apply In Washington State? 

Washington state law (RCW 60.44) allows for healthcare providers who have not been paid for their care to place a lien on an injured patient's insurance claim. The law was written in 1937 and updated in a 2015 bill updating the notice and release requirements as well as requiring third party collection groups to be licensed debt collectors. 

While liens may be adversarial in other situations, a medical lien in the event of a personal injury claim is actually relatively common. 

Medical Liens Can Help You Get The Treatment You Need

Medical treatment for injuries resulting from a no-fault car accident is not cheap. The out-of-pocket costs associated with paying for your medical treatment as you recover from your injuries can easily exceed $10,000 or even $50,000 in a serious accident. 

Since the average American does not have tens of thousands of dollars in savings reserved in case of an auto accident, this dynamic can lead to accident victims putting off medical treatment that is not only important to their recovery but proves the extent of their injuries in a personal injury claim. 

Fortunately, working with an attorney often times increases the odds that a medical provider will be willing to provide treatment to the injured person on a medical lien basis, meaning that the collection of any medical costs would be postponed until the case has been resolved and the accident victim has recovered damages. This is beneficial to all parties, as it eliminates the financial barrier for the accident victim while still ensuring that the medical provider will be repaid for the medical costs. 

Why Was A Medical Lien Placed On My Settlement?

A Medical Lien is typically placed on a settlement by care providers to recover their costs after the settlement is agreed upon.

This means rather than you having to pay for medical bills after an accident before you receive any settlement funds, care providers have been keeping a running tab of services provided, and wait to collect that amount until you have collected your settlement. 

Alternatively, if care providers are not able to wait to bill, your own insurance may pick up those costs, and eventually place a lien on your settlement, recovering their costs in a process called subrogation

How Medical Lien Negotiation Can Help

As soon as it appears medical expenses could overshadow available funds for recovery our team would begin the process of negotiating the medical lien assessed on the eventual recovery to mitigate those expenses. 

There are certain expenses such as ambulance rides and other contractors to the hospital that may not be able to be reduced, but in many cases, the attorneys at Davis Law Group are able to reduce or even eliminate all applicable costs from a medical lien. 

What Does A Medical Lien Mean For My Settlement?

While a medical lien can take a chunk out of a settlement, it doesn't mean the victim of the accident is walking away from the settlement with less money. Medical bills are a key component of settlement negotiations and if your case is handled correctly, all medical expenses should be accounted for in the settlement amount. 

This means that whether through Medical Liens or Subrogation, medical costs will always be a part of your settlement, but the legal team at Davis Law Group understand that medical costs are often just a small portion of the damages caused in an accident.  

If you or a loved one were injured in an accident, use the chat or contact options on this page or call 206-727-4000 to request a free case evaluation with our team of award winning personal injury attorneys in Seattle, WA.  

Chris Davis
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Christopher M. Davis is principal attorney and founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, WA.