I wish I could tell you that your personal injury case will go exactly how you like it and as smooth as you like it. But form doing this for over twenty years, I know there are at least three things that you’re going to frustrated about at some point.
1. THE TIME IT TAKES TO GET YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS AND BILLS
Once you have finished receiving treatment from your doctors or other medical providers, the next step is for us to gather your medical records and bills.
I know what you’re thinking, “Why do you need to to that? The doctor gave me all my records and bills, and I’m giving them to you.” Unfortunately, you don’t have everything. For example, if you went to the hospital, you were probably given 5-10 pages of “records”. You think that’s all there is. But when we order the records from the hospital, we could get 200-300 pages just for a one time visit.
So we need to get the full records and bills and get them in a format that the insurance company will use.
Unfortunately, this process takes time. For doctors and medical providers, giving lawyers their patients’ records is way down on the list of things they want to do or spend money on. I’m not blaming them for this, but it’s just part of the process. The result is that what seems like it should be easy takes a LONG time.
In fact, it takes so much time that lawyers who do what we do had to go to the legislature and state agencies to ask for rules to try and put time limits on how long doctors have until they turn over the records and bills and even limit the amount that they can charge for the records.
We’ve tried a number of different ways to speed this up, but the result is that the process just takes a lot of time. You’ll be frustrated with the amount of time, but just know that we’re working hard to get them in, and we have to let the process play itself out.
When your health insurance, Medicare or other entities pay for benefits that relate to the wreck, most of the time, you have an obligation at the end of the case to pay them back.
A lot of people are frustrated learning that they have to pay the insurance companies back. But it’s a requirement set out in almost all insurance policies, and even written into law in the case of Medicare, Medicaid, and other governmental providers.
The other frustrating thing about subrogation is that it takes time. At the end of the case, we’ll negotiate with them to try and minimize what you have to pay back. But by its nature, we can’t start those negotiations until the case settles because all of these companies want to know the settlement amount, fees, etc. to determine the amount of reduction they will provide. So in most cases, the case will be over and we’ll still be negotiating with the various providers. Indeed, in the case of Medicare and some others, the negotiation with the subrogation provider can take longer than the negotiation with the actual insurance company.
3. YOU MAY BE CONTACTED BY OTHER LAWYERS
In the past, some injury lawyers would settle cases, but not pay the hospitals for the outstanding bills. So the hospital lobbyists went to the legislature and had a law passed that gives them a lien on the victim’s cases. That means the hospital can file a notice in the county deed records, and if the hospital isn’t paid back at the end of the case, the hospitals can sue the insurance companies or the lawyers involved directly.
Some letters may try to even scare you by saying the insurance company will include the hospital on your settlement check. In theory, insurance companies can include the hospital on a check to protect themselves from being sued. But normally, this isn’t a big deal at all. It’s standard that we’ll settle or resolve cases, negotiate with the hospital, and then pay them a fair amount. This is typically done by the insurance company writing the hospital a check for the negotiated amount (to protect themselves) and then the insurance company writing a second check to you and our firm for the rest of the settlement. Usually this is an easy negotiation, though in rare cases I end up suing the hospital because they’re seeking an unreasonable amount. But it happens in a lot of cases.
Unfortunately, one byproduct of this system is that a number of personal injury lawyers now hire people to search the county’s records and find cases where the hospitals file liens. Then the lawyers write the patients letters that make the lien sound scarier than it really is because the lawyers are trying to solicit new cases for themselves. I wish the State Bar would regulate these lawyers better because I don’t feel like they’re being completely truthful with the public and they cause people stress and anguish about things that are typical.
So that’s why you may get a rash of letters from lawyers. They’re just trolling for new business. They’re not bill collectors. Your account isn’t in collections. And this isn’t something that’s unusual or a problem. We deal with it a lot. Of course, these guys don’t tell you that it’s normal because they’re trying to scare people into calling them for new business.
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