Legal Question in Personal Injury in Georgia

Unethical Lawyer

My lawyer sent my settlement package paperwork which included the deduction for 8k for a Medicare lien. He sent a letter from Medicare with that amount. After signing the final paperwork and receiving the settlement check, I received a call from Medicare in regards to my request to negotiate a reduced payoff. As I find out, my lawyer was attempting to receive a reduced settlement with them after taking the 8k from me and without telling me anything about it. Is that legal? I know it must be unethical. He is basically stealing from my son, who was the injured party. I am so angry, but I dont know where to turn. I can prove that he started the negotiation with them before he sent me the settlement papers. Im just lucky that they inadvertently called me back instead of him or I would have never known. What should I do?

Asked on 4/01/08, 4:17 am

3 Answers from Attorneys

Charles W. Field Charles W. Field, Attorney at Law

Re: Unethical Lawyer

In all probability, nothing unethical has happened here. However, I understand your frustration. Consult with a local attorney. Have the documents in question reviewed by someone who is objective.

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Answered on 4/05/08, 3:57 pm

Glenn Loewenthal Glenn Loewenthal, P.C.

Re: Unethical Lawyer

I can almost guarantee you that your lawyer has done nothing wrong. What he did is called a medicare hold back. All lawyers do that on a regular basis whenever there is a medicare lien. That money is placed in the lawyers trust account. The lawyer holds back the money that is claimed as a lien be medicare. The lawyer then settles that lien with Medicare. Medicare has a formula for settling liens where they will give you a discount for the percentage share of attorneys fees and litigation oosts. Usually you end up paying medicare between 50% to 60% of their lien. Once the lien is settled, the lawyer releases any funds left over back to the client. I assure you the lawyer was not going to keep the extra money. If anything the lawyer did not do a good job explaining the process to you. Also the reason the lawyer holds back 100% of the lien amount even though they know they will not have to pay the full amount, is because medicare is notoriously slow about gathering their information, and many times they change their lien amount for more recent medical bills they did not include earlier, so it is wise for the lawyer to hold back the full amount to cover any additional amounts medicare tries to add on later. I hope this eases your mind some.

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Answered on 4/01/08, 8:03 am
Alan Cleveland Alexander & Cleveland, LLC

Re: Unethical Lawyer

It is not unethical for an attorney to hold back funds from a settlement to satisfy a Medicare lien. You should contact your attorney and advise him that you were contacted by Medicare regarding the lien. You should also ask him to explain the process of satisfying Medicare's lien, which he apparently has not done. Medicare is very slow in responding and it is not uncommon to take a year or longer after settlement to resolve their liens. In the meantime, the $8K is being held by your attorney in a trust account and any balance left over after satisfaction of the lien will be disbursed to you.

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Answered on 4/01/08, 8:20 am

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