Massachusetts Court of Appeal Allows MassHealth to Assert Lien on Wrongful Death Car Accident Settlement

If you are involved in a serious accident with another motorist, there are several different ways that you can obtain compensation for your damages and injuries. One of the most common methods that parties use is a settlement. This is a quick and efficient way to resolve the legal dispute and avoids the arduous and costly process of having to go to trial. When it comes to settlements, however, there are many specific rules that the parties must consider and follow in order to ensure that the agreement is valid. These rules may also affect whether seeking a settlement is the best option for dealing with your claim. The dedicated and experienced Boston car accident lawyers at the Law Office of Michael O. Smith are prepared to help you determine a strategic course of action for recovering compensation after an accident.

The Massachusetts Court of Appeals recently considered a case in which the estate of a car accident victim was ordered to make payments to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, otherwise known as MassHealth.

In the underlying dispute, the estate and the at-fault driver reached a settlement agreement. The plaintiff was an elderly woman who suffered from dementia at the time of the accident. The accident caused a serious aggravation in the plaintiff’s condition. She died before the matter was resolved, and her estate brought a lawsuit against the defendant, seeking damages. Before her death, however, MassHealth made payments exceeding $18,000 for her treatment and injuries. Once the estate and the at-fault driver reached a settlement of $250,000, MassHealth asserted an $18,000 lien against the settlement amount to reimburse it for the medical expenses that it paid.

MassHealth eventually moved to intervene in the settlement, which was subject to court approval. The lower court allowed the intervention and ordered the estate to make payments to MassHealth reflecting the sums that it paid for the deceased woman’s care. The estate appealed, claiming that MassHealth waited too long to intervene. The appellate court rejected this argument, citing Massachusetts laws that allow for interventions upon timely applications, which are ultimately in the discretion of the judge. Since the estate did not object to the intervention at the time that it was sought, it rejected the estate’s argument that the application was untimely. It also rejected the estate’s claim that the settlement could not be subject to a lien because it was a wrongful death claim. It referred to statutes regarding liens and wrongful death claims, noting that the lien provisions did not specify certain types of claims.

If you were harmed in a car accident or lost a loved one as a result of a careless driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Our compassionate and experienced team of car accident attorneys is standing by and prepared to help you ensure that you pursue the full amount of compensation that you deserve. To set up a free consultation, call us at 1-617-263-0060 or contact us online.

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