Pleasanton, CA asked in Car Accidents and Legal Malpractice for California

Q: I rec’d a settlement from accident. 3 yrs later, I got an unpaid med bill. My attorney failed to pay; do I have recourse

Attorney was sent all the bills to handle and include as part of settlement package. They had all the info on medical bills so that I would not have to worry about coordination. Once we settled, I thought everything had been completed and paid. 3 yrs later, I got a medical bill saying after reaching out unsuccessfully to my attorney, they were forwarding to me the bill. While I understand I’m responsible for bills, I feel the attorney did not do they job properly either in advising me on my settlement. Is there a legal responsibility the attorney has if they were sent all the bills to advise their client before they settle?

2 Lawyer Answers
William John Light
William John Light
Answered
  • Personal Injury Lawyer
  • Riverside, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: You should have an accounting or breakdown of the fees, costs, and medical expenses that were paid out of the settlement. If that document claims that a medical bill was paid, but it was not, you have a claim.

If your attorney left that medical bill off the accounting, then it wasn't paid and, by implication, you were advised that it wasn't paid. Your attorney has an obligation is to pay all medical bills on which there is a lien, either statutory or contractual. If the unpaid medical bill was not based on a lien, then the attorney was not required to pay it from your settlement.

In that event, he should have advised you of the unpaid medical bill so that you could instruct him to negotiate and pay it, or you could take an informed risk that you might be pursued later.

To be honest, I don't know if that rises to the level of a malpractice claim. Our office always attempts to pay all outstanding medical bills, or advises the client which medical bills remain unpaid, so we will hopefully never have to defend the issue that faces you.

Depending on the amount of the medical bill, you may be able to make the claim against the attorney in Small Claims court where you can get a judgment of up to $10k. You would need an attorney to testify, either in person or by affidavit, that your attorney fell below the standard of care in the community by failing to pay or to advise you that the bill was not paid. You would have to pay for that service.

Alexander Bakhache Perez
Alexander Bakhache Perez
Answered
  • Personal Injury Lawyer
  • Fullerton, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: I would start with contacting the attorney and then reviewing the breakdown of the bill if it was listed.

This is an important to review the settlement amount with the bills being paid, to the list of doctors or placed you had treatment from to review. Best to call your old attorney and inform him of the bills.

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.