A great number of personal injury lawsuits, wrongful death lawsuits, and survivorship actions involve the assertion of liens, which are essentially declarations by insurance providers that they have an interest in any proceeds that may be awarded as part of a lawsuit. Medi-Cal and Medicare liens are often asserted when they have paid for medical services a plaintiff has received, claiming that the medical services are directly related to the plaintiff’s injuries. In wrongful death cases in California, a defendant’s liability insurance carrier is likely to halt payment on a settlement until a statement is obtained from Medi-Cal and Medicare that documents whether or not they wish to seek reimbursement for medical services provided at the end of a plaintiff’s life.
Many wrongful death lawsuits can drag on for what seems like an endless period of time. As such, the more a plaintiff’s attorney can do to speed up the process, the better off a loved one’s family will be at the conclusion of a lawsuit. A plaintiff’s attorney can be proactive by making contact with Medi-Cal and Medicare right away to determine if they plan to assert a lien on a potential settlement. Getting this statement as quickly as possible can significantly speed up the process of having a wrongful death case settled, as the attorney will already be in possession of the necessary documentation that a defendant’s insurance carrier will require before finalizing a settlement.
Medi-Cal and Medicare Will Not Assert a Lien Interest in Wrongful Death Cases
It is extremely important to understand that Medi-Cal and Medicare will not assert a lien in wrongful death cases, but will not necessarily do the same in an ordinary personal injury or medical malpractice lawsuit, or for a survivorship action, which is simply a claim by the decedent’s estate or a claim for medical expenses. The wrongful death claim itself is the only claim for which Medi-Cal and Medicare will waive its interest in any reimbursement that may be obtained from a settlement.
Wrongful Death v. Survivorship Action
The initial step of a formal lawsuit – filing the complaint – is extremely important for shaping the way a case will turn out. If the complaint alleges ONLY wrongful death, the Medi-Cal/Medicare lien rule will apply to any wrongful death settlement. If, however, the complaint alleges claims that relate to the decedent’s estate or medical expenses, the road to a wrongful death settlement may be a little trickier. If an attorney makes clear from the beginning that the lawsuit is only for the wrongful death of a plaintiff, and for nothing else, then the road to settlement is likely to be much more clear and faster.
This is not to say that a survivorship action or claim for medical expenses cannot be brought, but for purposes of getting a wrongful death claim resolved, addressing the wrongful death claim on its own may make the most sense to ensure a smooth transition into settlement. A survivorship action and claim for medical expenses could be brought at a later time, as a wrongful death settlement agreement should never be written in such a way that a plaintiff is foregoing his or her right to bring additional claims in the future.
How to Make the Process Move More Quickly
A plaintiff’s attorney can get the ball rolling by immediately completing an online form with Medi-Cal that documents a personal injury has occurred, and that it is important Medi-Cal provides written documentation as soon as possible, either asserting a lien on the potential personal injury claim or disclaiming any interest. The same process should be done with Medicare. However, there may not be the same type of online form available, so calling Medicare may be the best option for getting the matter resolved as quickly as possible.
Stockton Wrongful Death Lawyer
Meet my staff.
California Million Dollar Advocate Forum Member. Trial lawyers in this forum have multiple verdicts and settlements over a million dollars.
I’ve been practicing personal injury law exclusively since 1982.
Law Office of Edward A. Smith
235 N. San Joaquin Drive
Stockton, CA 95202