Personal Injury Law Blog

California Medical Lien Law & Overview

If a car crash or another accident causes you harm, it’s up to you to seek proper medical care. Unfortunately, it also rests on your shoulders to pay for those services. That can be frustrating and scary when you don’t have thousands of dollars to pay for an emergency room, medication, surgeries, follow-up visits, and other care.

Thankfully, you have options. Talk with Glotzer & Leib, LLP about pursuing a personal injury claim and using a medical lien in California. You can reach out online or give us a call.

What Are Medical Liens in California?

A medical lien gives a health care provider the right to receive payment directly from a settlement or judgment. You’ll need medical attention after a car crash or another accident causes you harm.

Whether or not you have health or auto insurance, it gets expensive. You might not have the means to pay for it right away, which is where a California medical lien comes in.

By agreeing to a medical lien, the health care provider performs their services without expecting you’ll pay immediately. Basically, you receive services on credit. The provider waits for payment until you resolve your personal injury claim.

How a Medical Lien in California Works

Once a medical provider agrees to a medical lien, you’ll sign an agreement. It’s vital that you know a medical lien is a legally binding contract, and you should have a lawyer review it before signing. That way, your lawyer can explain your rights and obligations under the agreement and discuss negotiating any changes that might be in your best interest.

After you’ve signed, the doctor notifies the insurance company and other relevant parties about the lien. This process is called perfecting the lien. It makes it official.

Now the other party involved in your case and the insurance company know to pay your doctor directly after you win a settlement or court award. These parties won’t send you a check and expect you to pay the doctor.  

Do California Health Care Providers Have to Accept Liens?

No, there’s no California medical lien law that requires medical providers to agree to this situation. Not every personal injury case is successful, and doctors, chiropractors, and other providers know that. They know it’s a risk to accept a medical lien because they’ll have trouble collecting if you don’t receive a settlement or award.

When Do Medical Providers Accept Liens?

Providers might accept medical liens in California if you were hurt in an accident and:

  • You lack insurance coverage, whether it’s private health insurance, Medi-Cal, Medicare, or a no-fault auto insurance policy;
  • You can’t afford your insurance deductible or copays; or
  • You can’t afford necessary medical care while waiting for the responsible party to pay or through an insurance settlement or court award.

With a medical lien, individuals in these situations can still obtain the care they need. 

How Can I Find a Doctor Who Will Accept a Medical Lien in California?

The best way to find a health care provider who accepts medical liens is through an experienced personal injury attorney.

Providers have to believe you’ll win your case. Otherwise agreeing to a lien is too big of a risk. But when you come to them with a lawyer who believes in your case, they can trust there’s a much better chance you’ll recover compensation.

What Happens If I Have a Medical Lien but Lose My Case?

If you lose your personal injury case, the medical lien doesn’t protect you. Instead, you’ll owe your doctor or other health care provider for their services.

Don’t panic over this possibility. If you owe money on a medical lien, a California injury lawyer may be able to negotiate a reduced bill or payment plan. Most health care providers want to get paid something, even if you can’t pay in full immediately.

What Is a Medi-Cal Lien in California?

Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program, and it has rules about paying for injuries caused by a third party’s negligence.

If Medi-Cal pays for your accident-related injuries, it expects the liable party or insurer to reimburse it. The Medi-Cal system automatically creates a lien for the reasonable value of the services it paid for. It’s called the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) Personal Injury Program.

This program gives the DHCS certain rights, including:

  • Intervening in your action against the at-fault party,
  • Bringing its own claim against the at-fault party, or
  • Asserting its lien on your financial recovery.

Medi-Cal is another situation in which it’s best to talk with a California personal injury lawyer and not panic. The DHCS can settle, reduce, or waive its lien. We fight for Medi-Cal patients to not only win compensation, but also to retain enough to account for their pain and suffering after paying the bills.

What’s important to know right now is that Medi-Cal has notification requirements. If you’re using Medi-Cal after a car crash, you need to deal with it right away, which is why you should give us a call.

Are There Other Types of Medical Liens?

Yes, there are multiple kinds of medical liens.

One type is a contractual agreement between you and your medical provider. Another type is created by law, like a Medi-Cal lien. Various statutes give insurance companies, hospitals, and the workers’ compensation system the right to reimbursement after paying for care.

What Is the California Medical Lien Statute of Limitations?

If you don’t pay your medical providers after resolving your claim, they could sue you. The statute of limitations on the provider’s claim is four years.

Contact Us

Dealing with medical care after an accident is stressful. We want to make it easier for you. First, we’ll find a provider who accepts medical liens in California. Then, we’ll review the agreement and negotiate if it’s in your best interests.

Many standard liens favor the doctor, but we can push for a fair contract. If you end up owing a provider, insurer, or Medi-Cal money, we’ll fight for a reduced rate and payment plan.

Glotzer & Leib, LLP has over 50 years of experience helping individuals in Los Angeles and the surrounding area. Don’t hesitate to contact us for help. 

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