If a family files a wrongful death claim related to an incident involving a decedent who was covered by Medicare, there could be situations in which damages that are awarded might be subject to liens placed by Medicare. Because this is not always the case, California individuals may need clarification before filing a claim. The type of claim filed and state standards serve as guidelines related to proceeds being attached by Medicare.
Medicare typically covers the medical costs of an eligible individual, and if these occur in connection with an accident in which a third party might owe damages on behalf of the injured person, Medicare would have the right to recover based on funds it has paid. If a survivor recovers damages to which the decedent would have been entitled if they had survived, particularly damages for medical costs, then a Medicare lien is probable. If a wrongful death claim does not include medical expenses for the decedent, the funds awarded would not be affected by Medicare. These types of damages are typically based on the loss of financial support, funeral and burial expenses and other damages incurred by the survivors.
Because this issue can be confusing, some individuals have incorrectly requested that Medicare be listed as a payee when compensation issues have been formalized. However, this cannot typically be done unless Medicare is actually entitled to a share of a settlement. Because state wrongful death statutes differ, this can be especially challenging for those filing a wrongful death suit in a different state than the one in which they live.
Wrongful death actions also have to be filed within the applicable statute of limitations, which makes it important to be aware of the legal standards of the state. An attorney who has experience with these matters can assist the decedent's survivors with these important issues.