When is $400,000 not $400,000???

When people become ill with a dangerous disease or a severe health problem, they don't want to go and see their family doctor, they want a specialist, and it makes sense. You want the best treatment you can get, and seeing a doctor who specializes in that field (orthopedics, cancer, neurology, etc.) will give you the best treatment. However, when it comes to lawyers, people often don't have that same mindset, instead thinking "any lawyer will do." Not true, especially when talking about personal injury cases.

A client's recent case (we will call her "Mary") has made this point perfectly clear. Mary was badly injured in a car accident and she had no health insurance. The first $50,000 of her medical bills were covered by the "no-fault" provisions of her auto insurance, but she had an additional $95,000 of medical bills that were paid by Medicaid. In this situation, Medicaid has a lien on any recovery that Mary gets for medical bills paid. We just settled Mary's case against the responsible party for $400,000, subject to resolution of Medicaid's lien for $95,000.

I was chatting between cases recently with a few other lawyers at the Hall of Justice in Rochester and I was commenting on how long it takes to deal with Medicaid red tape and one of the lawyers from a big box injury firm, said "Why do you care about Medicaid?" I explained to him that Medicaid has a lien on Mary's settlement monies so that they can be repaid for Mary's medical treatment related to the car accident. I then told this big box lawyer that if the lawyer for the injured person releases the settlement money to the client without clearing the Medicaid lien, the lawyer is personally obligated to pay Medicaid the amount of the lien. The big box lawyer's face went white and he instantly had a sick look on his face. I knew by looking at him what was wrong but asked just to be certain. Sure enough, he had recently finalized a client's injury case without resolving a substantial Medicaid lien, and was personally on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars to Medicaid. Worse yet, Medicaid can come directly after the client for the money, and can potentially take from the client not only the settlement money, but other assets as well!

Fortunately for my client Mary, I was able to get Medicaid to accept about $30,000 to settle their $95,000 lien. The client of the big box lawyer probably wasn't so lucky. If you have a potential injury case, treat it like a serious health problem and hire a lawyer who specializes in injury law (and has the time to devote to your case). You will be thankful you did.