If you’re injured here in the state of Louisiana because of someone else’s negligence – a distracted driver, a negligent property owner, or an irresponsible dog owner, for instance – take the case at once to an experienced New Orleans car accident attorney.

When you become the injured victim of negligence in this state, you are entitled by law to full compensation for your accident-related medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. But to prove you were injured because someone else was negligent, you’ll need legal help.

What’s more, after you’ve acquired a jury verdict or an out-of-court settlement for your injury, your compensation may be difficult to hold onto.

WHO HAS A RIGHT TO YOUR SETTLEMENT OR JURY VERDICT?

Here in Louisiana, after you obtain a jury verdict or a negotiated settlement for a personal injury claim, in some cases, health and automobile insurance companies, as well as healthcare providers, may have the right to a portion of your compensation amount because of medical liens.

What are medical liens? A medical lien is a demand for repayment against your compensation funds. In complicated personal injury cases, medical liens are not unusual.

After your personal injury occurred, if any other party agreed to pay all or some of your healthcare expenses – or withhold billing you until your claim was resolved – you will have to repay whoever paid your medical bills or agreed to bill you later.

SUBROGATION – WHAT IS IT?

The process of seeking reimbursement for medical expenses from someone’s personal injury compensation is called “subrogation.”

If somebody (such as your auto insurance company) pays money on your behalf that is a third party’s responsibility, the insurance company can “stand in your place” and bring a subrogation claim against the negligent third party.

For example, if your health insurance or auto insurance company pays $10,000 in medical costs as the result of a car accident caused by a negligent driver, the company can bring a subrogation claim against that other driver to recover your medical expenses that the company paid.

This may seem unfair. After all, you pay a monthly premium for your insurance policy. However, a look at the terms of the insurance policy will usually show that you’ve agreed to the insurance company’s right to file a subrogation claim.

WHO ELSE MAY FILE A SUBROGATION CLAIM?

Like insurance companies, hospitals and other healthcare providers in Louisiana – even ambulance services – are entitled to payment from your personal injury settlement or verdict if medical debts are pending or if billing was delayed until your compensation was recovered.

The law in Louisiana assures this state’s healthcare providers that they will be compensated. Healthcare providers and insurance companies in Louisiana have one year from the date of your injury to file a subrogation claim.

Healthcare providers and facilities may even ask a personal injury victim to sign a medical lien agreement. However, what’s called “balance billing” is prohibited in this state.

WHAT IS BALANCE BILLING?

Let’s say, for example, that a hospital lists $150 as the cost of a chest x-ray. A health insurer may contract with the hospital to cap payments for chest x-rays at $100. If the insurer tells consumers that it pays for 70 percent of a chest x-ray, it pays $70 while the patient pays $30.

No one, however, pays the remaining $50 of the listed charge, and a hospital in Louisiana cannot pursue a lien or any other claim against the patient for the remaining amount.

If Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs, or the state’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Administration paid any share of your accident-related healthcare expenses, they also have a subrogation right.

CAN A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER HELP YOU?

Lien law is considerably complicated in Louisiana. So is personal injury law. If you’re injured by another person’s negligence in this state, in a traffic collision or in any other accident scenario, you must be advised and represented by an accomplished New Orleans personal injury attorney.

In some cases, it’s possible for a lienholder to be persuaded to settle for something less than the full amount of the lien.

Your personal injury lawyer might be able to negotiate with a healthcare provider for a lower figure, but healthcare providers expect and have the legal right to be paid in full.

WHEN SHOULD YOU TAKE LEGAL ACTION?

If you’re suddenly, accidentally injured due to someone else’s negligence in Louisiana, the state’s statute of limitations on personal injury claims gives you one year to take legal action. What you must not do, however, is wait for a year and then try to act at the last minute.

If you are injured by someone else’s negligence, you must put a qualified Louisiana personal injury lawyer on the case at once – as soon as you’ve been treated for your personal injury or injuries.

Do not agree to or sign any settlement without the counsel of a good injury attorney. Quick settlements are usually low settlements.

WHAT WILL AN ACCIDENT ATTORNEY DO ON YOUR BEHALF?

Let your accident attorney negotiate for more. If you settle your injury claim too soon, you’ll waive the right to additional compensation or legal action.

In fact, when an insurance company contacts you after an accident, don’t make any statement or answer any questions. Instead, refer the insurance company to your attorney.

Your injury attorney will investigate the accident and your injury, review the medical records and applicable insurance policies, and determine which party or parties are liable for the accident and your injuries.

HOW ARE MOST PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS IN LOUISIANA RESOLVED?

Then your attorney will negotiate aggressively for the compensation you need. Most claims can be settled out-of-court, but if you are not offered the amount that you need, your attorney may recommend taking your case to trial and asking a jury to order the compensation you deserve.

As you’ve read here, obtaining a fair and just settlement or verdict is just the first step when you seek compensation for a personal injury.

For some injury victims, keeping your compensation may turn out to be more difficult than acquiring it. You will need an experienced Louisiana personal injury lawyer’s representation and advice. It is your right to have the legal help that you need.