Liens upon Recoveries for Personal Injuries to Secure Sums Due for Medical Attention, etc.
§ 44-49. Lien created; applicable to persons non sui juris.
(a) From and after March 26, 1935, there is hereby created a lien upon any sums recovered as damages for personal injury in any civil action in this State. This lien is in favor of any person, corporation, State entity, municipal corporation or county to whom the person so recovering, or the person in whose behalf the recovery has been made, may be indebted for any drugs, medical supplies, ambulance services, services rendered by any physician, dentist, nurse, or hospital, or hospital attention or services rendered in connection with the injury in compensation for which the damages have been recovered. Where damages are recovered for and in behalf of minors or persons non compos mentis, the liens shall attach to the sum recovered as fully as if the person were sui juris. The priority of a lien held by the State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees shall be superior to all nongovernmental liens and rights, whether such liens and rights are prior or subsequent to the lien.
(b) Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, no lien provided for under subsection (a) of this section is valid with respect to any claims whatsoever unless the physician, dentist, nurse, hospital, corporation, or other person entitled to the lien furnishes, without charge to the attorney as a condition precedent to the creation of the lien, upon request to the attorney representing the person in whose behalf the claim for personal injury is made, an itemized statement, hospital record, or medical report for the use of the attorney in the negotiation, settlement, or trial of the claim arising by reason of the personal injury, and a written notice to the attorney of the lien claimed.
(c) No action shall lie against any clerk of court or any surety on any clerk's bond to recover any claims based upon any lien or liens created under subsection (a) of this section when recovery has been had by the person injured, and no claims against the recovery were filed with the clerk by any person or corporation, and the clerk has otherwise disbursed according to law the money recovered in the action for personal injuries. (1935, c. 121, s. 1; 1947, c. 1027; 1959, c. 800, s. 1; 1967, c. 1204, s. 1; 1969, c. 450, s. 1; 2001-377, s. 1; 2001-487, s. 59; 2018-52, s. 5(b).)
§ 44-50. Receiving person charged with duty of retaining funds for purpose stated; evidence; attorney's fees; charges.
A lien as provided under G.S. 44-49 shall also attach upon all funds paid to any person in compensation for or settlement of the injuries, whether in litigation or otherwise. If an attorney represents the injured person, the lien is perfected as provided under G.S. 44-49. Before their disbursement, any person that receives those funds shall retain out of any recovery or any compensation so received a sufficient amount to pay the just and bona fide claims for any drugs, medical supplies, ambulance services, services rendered by any physician, dentist, nurse, or hospital, or hospital attention or services, after having received notice of those claims. Evidence as to the amount of the charges shall be competent in the trial of the action. Subject to G.S. 135-48.37, the priority of a lien held by the State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees shall be superior to all nongovernmental liens and rights, whether such liens and rights are prior or subsequent to the lien. Nothing in this section or in G.S. 44-49 shall be construed so as to interfere with any amount due for attorney's services. The lien provided for shall in no case, exclusive of attorneys' fees, exceed fifty percent (50%) of the amount of damages recovered. Except as provided in G.S. 44-51, a client's instructions for the disbursement of settlement or judgment proceeds are not binding on the disbursing attorney to the extent that the instructions conflict with the requirements of this Article. (1935, c. 121, s. 2; 1959, c. 800, s. 2; 1969, c. 450, s. 2; 1995, c. 538, s. 6(b); 1995 (Reg. Sess., 1996), c. 674, s. 3; 2001-377, s. 2; 2018-52, s. 5(c).)
§ 44-50.1. Accounting of disbursements; attorney's fees to enforce lien rights.
(a) Notwithstanding any confidentiality agreement entered into between the injured person and the payor of proceeds as settlement of compensation for injuries, upon the lienholder's written request and the lienholder's written agreement to be bound by any confidentiality agreements regarding the contents of the accounting, any person distributing funds to a lienholder under this Article in an amount less than the amount claimed by that lienholder shall provide to that lienholder a certification with sufficient information to demonstrate that the distribution was pro rata and consistent with this Article. If the person distributing settlement or judgment proceeds is an attorney, the accounting required by this section is not a breach of the attorney-client privilege.
(b) The certification under subsection (a) of this section shall include a statement of all of the following:
(1) The total amount of the settlement.
(2) The total distribution to lienholders, the amount of each lien claimed, and the percentage of each lien paid.
(3) The total attorney's fees.
(c) Nothing in this Article shall be construed to require any person to act contrary to the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, P.L. 104-91, and regulations adopted pursuant to that Act. (2003-309, s. 1.)
§ 44-51. Disputed claims to be settled before payments.
(a) Whenever the sum or amount or amounts demanded for medical services or hospital fees shall be in dispute, nothing in this Article shall have any effect of compelling payment thereof until the claim is fully established and determined, in the manner provided by law: Provided, however, that when any such sums are in dispute the amount of the lien shall in no case exceed the amount of the bills in dispute.
(b) This section shall not apply to amounts owed to the State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees for past-due account receivables related to claims payments. (1935, c. 121, s. 3; 1943, c. 543; 2018-52, s. 5(d).)