Lawyer died before giving us our settlement?

by Dean
(Maui, HI)

In 2012 my wife and I were vacationing in Maui. When we were shopping Lahaina there was a big divot in the sidewalk and my wife fell down and broke her ankle. We hired a lawyer and had to go back to Maui for 10 days for mediation.

Afterwards our lawyer told us that the county of Maui was willing to pay somewhere around $30,000 (the lawyer kept $13,000 for himself). So instead of going to trial we agreed to take whatever we could get, but never saw anything or heard anything from our lawyer.

That is, until we received a letter from Medicare saying they are going to recover their cost (which will be substantial since my wife had to have an operation to have a pin drilled into her ankle). Our lawyer never mentioned this or we would not have settled.

To make matters worse, we still haven't found out what is going on and our lawyer has passed away. The firm taking over his stuff says it's been settled and doesn't want anything to do with it. What can we do here? How do we get this resolved? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Lawyer died before giving us our settlement?":

Dean (Maui, HI):

Medicare has a right to be reimbursed for monies paid out on behalf an insured. An insured though, has a right to negotiate with Medicare the amount paid.

In 2007, the Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP Extension Act (MMSEA) was passed. The law strengthened Medicare’s right to be reimbursed from their covered insureds in personal injury and workers' compensation claims. To read Medicare's Regulations regarding reimbursement for personal injury claims see this page.

What is interesting is the law firm's statement that the claim has been "settled" and they don't want anything to do with it. That might be understandable if the $17,000 dollars had already been paid to your wife. If so, it is likely your wife signed a release and settlement agreement.

If that is the case, your late attorney likely sent to your wife a "Settlement Breakdown" document. In that letter will be a breakdown of the costs associated with the claim, the amounts paid, and an explanation of the manner in which the claim was settled.

In the event your wife didn't receive any money and the law firm continues to ignore your wife's request for assistance, contact the State of Hawaii Bar Association and seek their assistance in resolving the problem.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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