Ripper Law Firm PC constantly fights for our clients against subrogation claims in order to maximize the money they ultimately receive. Even when the subrogation claim is protected by law, we are often able to negotiate settlements that significantly reduce the amount owed.
What is subrogation?
Subrogation is someone else's right to stand in your shoes and sue to recover for anything they paid on your behalf. In other words, if you were injured and your primary health insurer paid medical and hospital bills that were caused by the other person's negligence, your health insurer has a right to seek reimbursement for the money it paid out on your behalf.
If you settle your case with the responsible party and receive payment for your medical expenses and pain and suffering, then in states that allow subrogation your health insurer can look to you to get repaid (since you recovered monies for medical expenses your insurance company paid). "Subrogation simply means substitution of one person for another; that is, one person is allowed to stand in the shoes of another and assert that person's rights against the defendant. Factually, the case arises because, for some justifiable reason, the subrogation plaintiff (usually an insurance company) has paid a debt owed by the defendant." Dan B. Dobbs, Law of Remedies § 4.3, at 404 (2d ed. 1993). However, a injured person can argue that if the settlement or judgment did not make him or her "whole" (the amount received does not constitute full compensation for the injuries), then your insurer does not have the right to obtain subrogation.
How does subrogation affect me?
Subrogation can affect you when you receive money in a settlement or a favorable award from a jury for money damages. You need to be aware that others (medical providers, hospitals and insurance companies) must be taken into consideration. In other words, their bills (or a portion thereof) may need to be paid out of the proceeds of your recovery. Your attorney can try to negotiate these payments with these parties on your behalf prior to any pay-out of the recovery. If it appears that your case may be resolving soon, you should ask your attorney about subrogation and how he or she plans to handle it.
Under Georgia law, hospitals and nursing homes can file a 'lien' against your cause of action to ensure they get paid from any recovery you receive in your case.
Any person, firm, hospital authority, or corporation operating a hospital or nursing home in this state shall have a lien for the reasonable charges for hospital or nursing home care and treatment of an injured person, which lien shall be upon any and all causes of action accruing to the person to whom the care was furnished or to the legal representative of such person on account of injuries giving rise to the causes of action and which necessitated the hospital or nursing home care, subject, however, to any attorney's lien." O.C.G.A. § 44-14-470(b)
In order to perfect the lien provided for in code section 44-14-470, the operator of the hospital, within 30 days after the person has been discharged therefrom, shall file in the office of the clerk of the superior court of the county in which the hospital is located and in the county wherein the patient resides, if a resident of this state, a verified statement setting forth the name and address of the patient as it appears on the records of such hospital; the name and location of the hospital and the name and address of the operator thereof; the dates of admission and discharge of the patient therefrom; the amount claimed to be due for the hospital care; and, to the best of the claimant's knowledge, the names and addresses of all persons, firms, or corporations claimed by the injured person or the legal representative of the person to be liable for damages arising from the injuries. Such claimant shall also, within one day after the filing of the claim or lien, mail a copy thereof to any person, firm, or corporation claimed to be liable for the damages, said copy to be mailed to the address given in the statement. The filing of the claim or lien shall be notice thereof to all persons, firms, or corporations liable for the damages, whether or not they are named in the claim or lien." O.C.G.A. § 44-14-471 (West 2002).
Other potential liens are available under Georgia law. The right to pursue an equitable lien may be different from state to state.