I get asked this question all the time. Clients have in the past threatened ethical complaints, but it doesn’t matter what you threaten because the law is what it is and there’s nothing you or I can do about it short of a change in the law. Trust me when I say I hate this part of the case and it has the same effect on my firm’s cash flow as it does on your household cash flow. So take a breath and let’s further define the question.
Question: Why we can't get our share of what is owed to the family after the wrongful death case was settled three months ago? There is a medical lien, which the lawyer said that he had put the amount on side.
Answer: Let’s not blame the lawyer just yet, before we understand the complexity of the system this lawyer is working in. What you're seeing with the settlement being tied up is a huge problem all personal injury lawyers face today. Getting the check doesn't mean everyone can immediately have money, because often times at that point it's still unclear how much everyone is entitled to received. Medical liens or subrogation interests are complicating all settlements. Be patient and stay in touch with your lawyer, but listen to what your lawyer is saying to you about who is claiming ownership interest in the settlement proceeds. My clients and I have the same problem in many of our cases. There is no easy or simple answer that quickly resolves. We get the check; deposit it into our trust accounts and then being the long and unreasonable process of negotiating liens and subrogation interests. It’s a huge unknown that can take years.
And let me say this; the squeaky wheel does not in this instance get the grease. I had one client who took this approach so I sent to him a trust account check made out to him and the insurance company because frankly I’d had enough of him. He negotiated himself and while he thinks he made out like a bandit he didn’t because he received a few thousand dollars when he was actually owed over $8,000 and had he just allowed me to do my work he would be over $6,000 richer today.
See Damien up there? Well, he's showing you what clients do when they represent themselves.