9-22-13 It has been 2 1/2 months since my personal injury case settled and my attorney placed my settlement money in his account; since then, his attitude toward me has become very hostile and accusatory. He badgered me to settle saying he could not win my case where 2 years ago he said he could. He is now holding on to my money saying he has to wait on medicare when he knows all of my bills were made and paid at least a year before I turned 65 and became medicare eligible and that I did not use medicare for any of my expenses.
I have asked him several time about being sent to collection and an almost law suit from one of my doctors when I gave them: his name and contact information, 2 different insurance providers and they are in my medical insurance network. He has not addressed this matter and just says he does not know why they took the action that they did; not give a solution.
He has written a medical expense sheet and on it are bills that were paid by my insurance and not owed. When I asked if I could pay the doctors myself, he said he had to pay them out of the settlement money. He also sent me a letter saying that he would not be responsible for any bills that surfaced after he paid the bills he felt I owed, based on his findings. I have informed him on several occasions that the doctor who sent me to collections for an accident in less than 1 1/2 years had: my PIP, medical insurance and his contact information, is in my insurance network, accepted payments from my insurance, to whom I make co-pays, is on the settlement sheet for the difference of the insurance payment; the attorney has not addressed this issue at all. He also did not get any of my bills reduced.
He handled another case where the payments had to be made to my companies medical recovery group. When I tell about this, he says he does not know anything about it.
What can I do about getting the bills resolved, have him reduce his fee, and receive interest for the time that he has held my money in his account?
2 Answers from Attorneys
I suggest you file a complaint with the MD Attorney Grievance Commission. Their site is http://www.courts.state.md.us/attygrievance. They will require the attorney to respond to your complaint and try to resolve this for you, at no cost to you. If your bills for which the attorney claims to have legitimate medical liens have already been paid from non-medicare sources, there is absolutely no reason why he should hold up disbursement of your settlement proceeds. You should be able to get zero balance bills for him from the providers to demonstrate this if he disputes this. But as for reducing his fee and paying interest on your proceeds, I wouldn't count on that.
I concur with the other attorney's post that if settlement monies were wrongfully withheld it is a matter for lodging a formal complaint.
However, in my opinion the first thing to check is whether the government has asserted any lien or whether a lien is likely.
An attorney should disburse settlement funds promptly ALTHOUGH an attorney is also legally obligated to pay off certain government medical liens BEFORE paying the client. Besides the government, sometimes during a court case a medical provider will ask for something called an A&A -- in that case, there may be an obligation to pay the doctors directly.
Besides Medicare, were there any Medicaid paid expenses? There should be documentation of the amount and an active effort to resolve -- a settlement should not be withheld on guesswork and only the maximum amount of possible liens should be withheld. One other point -- it is entirely reasonable for a client to ask for the cancelled checks for the disbursals shown on the settlement sheet to verify that bills listed there were actually paid.
While I hope this general legal information helps, it is not a substitute for legal advice on the specifics of your situation.