U.S. Government Liens on Personal Injury Claims Cannot Be Ignored

by Faye Counts
(Maryland)

I received a letter from the U.S. Government asking me to reimburse them for money they paid for medical treatment to a guy that I rear-ended a couple of years ago. My insurance company already settled with that guy and his lawyer. Do I have to pay this?

Sam H., Raleigh

If you have not already told your insurance company about this letter, you will want to do so right away. Government liens cannot be ignored, regardless of whether or not the personal injury claim it relates to has been settled and a signed settlement release obtained.

The U.S. Medical Care Recovery Act (MCRA) applies to all cases in which the United States either provides or pays for the medical care of a person who sustains a personal injury in a third party liability case. Under this Act, the government has the right to recover the cost or the value (if there were no actual charges) of the medical treatment it has paid for or provided to the injured person.

Even if the injured person did not pursue a personal injury claim, the federal government may make the person assign their right to make the claim over to the government so that it may pursue the at-fault party for payment. The government has the right of recovery even if the injured person did make a personal injury claim and settle it, and even if the at-fault driver’s insurance company paid out the policy limits to settle the case.

Hopefully the adjuster at your insurance company who handled the case was savvy enough to put a clause in the settlement release and/or cover letter stating that the claimant or Plaintiff would have to pay any unresolved liens. Again, this lien cannot be ignored. You need to get that letter to your insurance company.

This article is approved for informational purposes and is not intended to take the place of competent local legal counsel.

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