Fast forward 30 years, you are now employed with a good job. You have gotten no help from the state since 1990. You get into a car accident. You are about to settle. Your lawyer gets a letter from the State saying you owe money to pay back for that past help. What is going on here? Can the state charge me for that money frodecades ago? Are there any limits on what they can collect?
The state has the power to look up insurance claims and compare them to their lists of people who have gotten money from the state. This could be for public assistance (Welfare); care or support with either the Departments of Social Services, Corrections, Mental Health and Addiction Services, Developmental Services or Children and Families. They can even charge you for the cost of your spending time in jail. They can place a lien on your case for any charges going back to 1968 and these charges never expire.
While the state can do this, there are 2 important limitations. First, they must tell the attorney about the lien before you get the money. This must be done prior to you receiving the final check. Second, the most that the state can recover from your case (except for medical bills related to your case and unpaid child support payments, which are both entitled to 100% payment) is 50% of whatever you would have received if there had been no lien, after legal fees, medical bills, and case expenses (net recovery).”
As an example, you have a $30,000 total settlement. There is a $10,000 fee and $10,000 in medical bills. That leaves you with a $10,000, net recovery. If you had received $4,000 in public assistance in 1980 and the State failed to send your attorney a lien in time. You get paid the whole $10,000. If the state sends the lien in time, as the lien is less than 50% of the net, you pay the State $100% of what is owed. You get $6,000. If instead you had received $5,010 in benefits the state is limited to $5,000. You get $5,000. Even if you had received $100,000 in benefits the most the State could get is the same $5,000.
The good news is that the State will never send you a bill for these charges that you will have to pay from your wages or savings (except for unpaid child support) However, if you get money from a source like a car accident, if the State finds out about it, even if you got it 30+ years ago, they could swoop down and get some, but maybe not all of it back.