Not every accident injury case can or should be accepted by an attorney. There are often disputes about who was at fault, whether the accident caused injuries, and how extensive they are. Mix into the equation the unpredictability of collecting, people are left scratching their heads. And, even when there is at last a small recovery after all bills have been raked off the top, clients look at the lawyer’s fee as if to say why are you getting a fee when I am getting next to nothing. Doesn’t make for good PR.
A valid lien for medical bills may swallow up a good case, making it impossible to for me to represent a client. When a person is the victim of a bad accident, the last thing they think about is having to pay back all of the settlement for medical bills owed to an insurance company or local hospital. Therefore it is important for a lawyer during intake of a new case to find out asap how much liability insurance there is, and even if paid 100%, whether it is enough to satisfy all of the clients’ doctors and hospital bills and insurance company rights of subrogation or reimbursement under ERISA. He needs to tell the clients about liens and subrogation and ERISA and maybe even refuse the case.
Halifax Hospital has an aggressive collection policy. It files a lien automatically every time the victim of an accident gets treated there even in cases not involving car crashes. Then, when the patient settles his case (or sometimes even before that) it blocks insurance companies from paying its insurance to the victim until it is paid off first. Florida Bar rules REQUIRE an attorney to notify lienholders of settlements and to freeze money in their trust accounts until the lien is satisfied either by court order or an agreed deal with the lienholder. The same is true of ERISA claims, and claims where auto accident insurance companies claim a right of subrogation.
An attorney can work for months on a case only to find out that all of the money he finally got after hassling with the liability insurance company has to be handled over to an ERISA insurance plan, as a matter of law. Neither his client or he get ZILCH!