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Mr. Barlow is the Author of "The Ultimate Guide to Accident Injury Cases in Hawaii." Available at:
Worked for the
United States Air Force
Member of the Board of Governors of the Hawaii Association for Justice
Why You Need a Hawaii Accident Injury Lawyer
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Most websites for injury law firms in Hawaii simply say that you need to hire a lawyer if you've been injured in an accident because injury law in Hawaii is complicated. Yes, it's true that the injury laws in Hawaii are complicated; however, we are actually going to explain why the laws are complicated.
One of the complicated parts of an injury case in Hawaii are medical liens. Most of us have health insurance and we think that our health insurance company simply pays the bills they receive and will never ask to be reimbursed for bills that they've paid. This assumption is usually true; however, one exception is when you've been involved in an auto accident in Hawaii. The medical insurance companies in Hawaii such as HMSA, Kaiser, and HMAA, have clauses in their insurance contracts which state that if you've been injured in an accident and you receive compensation for those injuries, then you have to pay them back for the bills that they've paid. The initial reaction by most people is that this isn't right. You pay your health insurance premiums and expect your insurance company to pay the bills and not ask to be reimbursed when you settle your injury case. We can also look at it from the medical insurance company's point of view: they lost money because of the bad driver so they think they have the right to be compensated for their losses.
These health insurance companies hire collection companies to try to get the money back that they've spent on someone's injuries due to an accident. The agents for the collection companies receive commissions based on how much they get back for the health insurance companies. One of the techniques of the collections companies is to do anything they can to get the information about the car insurance companies involved in the case. Their main goal is to place a lien on the case with the car insurance companies. Once a lien is placed on the case, then the car insurance adjusters won't settle the case unless the injured person agrees to have them take out the medical lien amount from their settlement proceeds and pay the collection company the amount they've requested.
We do everything that we can to get the collection companies to discount the amounts that they're requesting. If the collection company has placed the car insurance company on notice of their lien, then it is very difficult to get them to reduce their lien. This is because they know that they are in a position of power. They know that the case can't be settled until their lien is resolved. In these situations, they will usually only reduce their lien by about 10% at the most. If the collection company hasn't placed the car insurance company on notice, then we are in a much better position to get them to reduce their lien amount. This is because they know that we're the ones in the position of power. When we settle the case the client will usually request that we hold funds from the settlement in our client trust account to resolve the outstanding liens. We can then take as much time as we need to get the collection company to reduce their lien. In these situations, we can usually get them to reduce their lien by about one third.
This is an area of law that is constantly changing. There was a recent Hawaii Supreme Court decision which greatly limited the ability of the health insurance companies to get compensation for the medical bills that they paid. Whether the health insurance plan is an ERISA plan or not makes a big difference in how much of the medical bills have to be paid back.
Medical liens from Med-Quest (Department of Health Services) are supported by statute; but, the good thing about Quest liens is that they are required to be reduced by one third. Quest liens are known as super liens because statutory law requires that they are paid back.
Each of these different health insurance companies and government agencies has different processes and procedures for requesting reductions and paying back liens.