Time Is Of The Essence For A Medical Lienholder to Enforce Their Personal Injury Lien In Missouri
RSMO 430.250 reinforces that the at fault driver’s insurance company is ultimately responsible for payment of a lien. Unfortunately, it does not issue clear guidance on how long a provider has to sue to enforce its lien. The best practice for a provider would be to sue within a year of the settlement being disbursed to the patient or patient’s lawyer.
Let’s breakdown the law. RSMO 430.250 provides:
“Any insurance carrier making payment to such patient or to his attorneys, as compensation for the injury sustained, after receiving a properly perfected lien under 430.240, without paying the provider the amount of its lien or the pro rata amount,
Shall have a period of one year after the settlement is made known
to the provider, from the date of payment to the patient or their
The Insurance carrier will be and remain liable to such provider for what they were entitled, and may within that year, enforce its lien by suing insurance carrier making any such payment.”
Well, which one is it, Missouri legislature? A year after the settlement is made known to the provider or from the date of payment to the patient/lawyer? The two times are written in two sentences, separated by a comma. A compelling argument could be made that they intended either one.
I have found no cases where timeliness of filing under RSMO 420.250 has been litigated. This is somewhat surprising given the volume of lien based personal injury cases every year in Missouri. I think one of the main reasons why it has not been litigated is because lien holders often fail to perfect their lien. If a dispute arises on an unperfected lien, a medical provider is forced into a negotiated settlement instead of bringing the claim to court. They will have to accept what they can and move on to the next.
A medical provider cannot sue under RSMO 430.250 without first showing that they have properly perfected their lien. Many liens are negotiated because the client wants them paid. Other times, I think lawyers will negotiate liens because they think they must, not because the liens are properly perfected.
If I were advising a medical lien holder, I would advise playing it safe and bringing their claim within 1 year of date of payment to the patient/lawyer. The text of the statute is written ambiguously, but 1 year satisfies both timeliness definitions held within the RSMO 430.250. I am not sure why legislators would write the law in such a way, but the best thing to do is get the suit to enforce the lien filed within a year of the payment to the patient/lawyer.
Practice Tip: It would be advisable to find out the adjuster and claim information and have an assistant call for claim update every 6 months. This is especially important to do if the provider is working with a lawyer who is new to them and is not diligent about returning calls or providing case updates. Such a follow up call will ensure that a suit to enforce a lien will be timely filed.