Category Archives: Illinois Case Law

Calculating Lien Reductions under the Illinois Health Care Services Lien Act (after McVey)

The Illinois Supreme Court issued an opinion on McVey v. MLK Enterprises this week. Plaintiffs lawyers who accept small and/or difficult cases are frustrated.

The Health Care Services Lien Act, 770 ILCS 23/10(c), provides a framework to reduce the liens of health care providers (in some circumstances) after a case has been settled. The quick and dirty of this law (which is actually quite intricate) is that the total of all medical liens were reduced to 40% of the verdict or settlement, and the attorney’s lien was reduced to 30%, with the idea that there would still be money available to go to the injured party.

In practice, this doesn’t always work out the way it should. First, the Act didn’t address subrogation claims (like those for health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare). This has been mitigated somewhat by the new 770 ILCS 23/50, which allows for a reduction in subrogation if there is comparative fault or “uncollectability of the full value of the claim.” Second, the Act specifies that, even though a lien can be reduced, the injured party still owes the full amount of the bill. So if there is a $10,000 bill that is reduced to $6,000 under the Act, the injured person still owes $4,000 unless the attorney can negotiate that away (which we always try to do – typically by adding a little extra to the reduced lien amount). Third, to apply the Act to a provider who wasn’t willing to reduce its lien voluntarily, there has to be a suit or at least some sort of action filed by which the Court can adjudicate the liens. That’s fine if a case has already been filed, but for some that are resolved pre-suit, it could add filing fees and costs.

The McVey case created (or at least highlighted) a fourth problem with the Act. The 30% that goes to the attorney also includes the attorney’s costs incurred in prosecuting the case. Most attorney fee contracts provide that the attorney is paid 33.33% plus reimbursement of costs at the end of the case. So if an attorney settles a typical case for $10,000 after spending $500, the attorney would be paid $3,333.33 plus the $500 back. If the attorney needs to use the Health Care Services Lien Act to reduce the liens, then the attorney would only take home $3,000 total – 30% of the settlement.

Doesn’t seem that bad, right? Not in that case. The difficulty comes in where there is a compromise settlement of a difficult case, or a verdict without much awarded for pain and suffering.

Imagine the “bad verdict.” $10,000 in medical bills. Jury awards $12,000. Attorney has taken depositions and needed two treating doctors to testify at trial, spending $3,000. Attorney’s fees are now only $1,000, per statute. What if there were $5,000 in costs? Then the attorney loses $4,000.

Imagine the “50/50” case. Both parties say they had the green light. Case worth, say, $20,000 but with a 50% chance of winning. $3,000 in costs, but a $10,000 offer. If the attorney takes the offer, he gets his costs back and nothing else. If he rolls the dice and goes to trial, his costs go up and he may get nothing – or even less. If there are medical liens out there, then there are unpaid medical bills. Settlement is probably in the client’s best interest, but then the lawyer would have worked and “loaned” $3,000 of his own money, for free.

This isn’t a pity party for us poor plaintiffs lawyers, although it certainly may sound like that. The real problem here is that many people will have difficulty finding attorneys who are willing to fight tough cases. Not all cases are clear cut. Some have difficult liability. Sometimes it’s tough to prove that the crash or whatever actually caused the injury. People with tough cases need lawyers who are willing to fight for them – even more than most people do because the cases are harder. People like me take those cases and enjoy the challenge – but if we can win and still not even recover what we spent out of pocket? It may make us think twice about taking the case, and it may leave injured people without the legal help they need.

(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury lawyer handling car accident and other injury cases in the Quad Cities area. He can be reached at hzimmerle [at] or 309-794-1660). 

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Filed under Illinois Case Law, Illinois law, Legal News, Settlements

Illinois Health Care Services Lien Act – New Case

(NOTE that as of 5/21/2015, Stanton v. Rea, discussed below, has been OVERRULED by the Illinois Supreme Court and is no longer good law.)

One of the great tools in a plaintiff lawyer’s arsenal in Illinois is the Health Care Services Lien Act, which reduces the amount of certain medical liens in some cases. It can really help increase the total amount your client ends up with in a settlement.

A new case from the 5th District, Stanton v. Rea, notes that the 40% of the settlement that goes to the medical lienholders should not be calculated until after costs have been subtracted from the settlement. In other words, the Act doesn’t mean 40% of the pie, it means 40% of the pie after costs. In some cases, that can make a big difference.

My partner, Mike Warner, just spoke on some new aspects of the Lien Act at the recent Rock Island County Bar Association Seminar. I think a thorough “how to” post is forthcoming.

(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury lawyer in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois, helping people who have been injured due to someone else’s fault. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at]

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Filed under Illinois Case Law, Illinois law, Negotiations, Settlements

Howell v. Dunaway reversed by Illinois Supreme Court

About a year ago I blogged about a 5th District case that would allow lawyers to reduce the amount of medical provider liens pursuant to the Illinois common fund doctrine.

Never mind, because the Illinois Supreme Court reversed it.

It was a nice tool while it lasted.

(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury lawyer in the Quad City area. You can reach him at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at]

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New Illinois Case Good for Minors who had Settlement Proceeds Stolen

It happens too often.

Parent settles case on behalf of minor. The court orders the settlement proceeds to be invested and not to be touched without a court order until the minor turns 18 (or 21). Somehow, a parent dips into the money after all, and by the time the minor finds out, the money’s all gone.

It really does happen often, despite certain protections in the system.

Luckily, in Newell v. Newell, the Third District allowed an action against the parent and the bank in one of these situations. The court held that a three year statute of limitations applied, but also applied the discovery rule, so that the statute of limitations didn’t begin to run until the minor knew or had reason to know that a cause of action might exist.

(Howard Zimmerle is a lawyer in the Quad Cities, regularly handling cases in Moline, Bettendorf, Rock Island, Davenport, East Moline and other areas. You can reach him at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at]

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Our Firm in the News

Here is an article about a dram shop case we filed last week. I won’t add much to what is in the article because the case is pending. It should be noted, though, that a bar only needs to be “a cause” not “the main cause” or “the biggest cause” of someone’s intoxication (although it has to be more than de minimis).

(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury attorney in the Quad Cities who handles car accidents and dram shop cases, as well as many other injury matters. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at]

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Filed under Illinois Case Law, Illinois law, Our Firm, Quad Cities, Wrongful Death

New Illinois Criminal Case Allows Judicial Notice of Google Maps at Trial

I guess the headline of this post says it all. Just remember that People v. Clark is a criminal case, and is a Second District case, not Illinois Supreme Court. Still, this is a good weapon to have in your trial lawyer’s arsenal.

(Howard Zimmerle practices plaintiff’s personal injury law in Rock Island Illinois and Davenport Iowa, as well as the surrounding areas. You can contact him at hzimmerle [at], or 309-794-1660).

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New Posts on My Companion Blog – Rock Island Workers Compensation Lawyers

Hey folks, I just wanted to publicize a few of new posts on the Rock Island Workers Compensation Attorney Blog. That is my other blog, intended to give regular people an overview of Illinois workers comp law. So here are some of my recent efforts:

“How much would an Illinois Workers Compensation Lawyer Charge Me?”

“Is My Workers Comp Case Set in Illinois? What State Can I Bring it in?”

“What is a Leg Injury Worth in Illinois (workers comp)”

(Howard Zimmerle is a trial lawyer in Rock Island and Davenport. You can contact him at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at]

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Filed under Illinois Case Law, Workers Compensation