What Are Hospital Liens in Car Accident Cases?

A car accident could give you serious injuries that require emergency medical care. Legally, no hospital can deny you care – even if you cannot afford it and do not have enough insurance to pay for treatment. The way a hospital protects itself from paying for your care is through the use of a hospital lien.

What Is a Hospital Lien?

A lien is a legal document that asserts someone’s right to another person’s property. It is a way for a creditor to lay claim to a debtor’s property if the debtor does not pay what he or she owes. If the debtor does not fulfill his or her debt to the lienholder, the lien will allow the holder to take control or ownership of the property in question, such as the person’s home or vehicle. The lienholder can sell the property to make up the debt.

A hospital lien is a specific type of legal claim that a hospital can attach to a patient’s personal injury lawsuit or insurance claim in a car accident case. It gives the hospital the right to keep a portion of any settlement or jury verdict you obtain during your car accident case to satisfy the medical debt you owe for treatments rendered. A hospital lien does not go against you personally or your insurance provider. It attaches to the party who is at fault for your car accident. Once the at-fault party pays you an insurance settlement, a hospital lien deducts what you owe in medical bills from the total amount won.

Are Hospital Liens Fair?

Hospital liens are controversial from a legal perspective. Placing a lien on the patient’s settlement is a way for the hospital to collect a higher amount than it would by going through the health insurance system. Insurer-contracted medical payments typically only represent a fraction of the full list price of medical treatments. A hospital billing an auto insurance company rather than a patient’s health insurance company for care is a way for the hospital to maximize its financial recovery.

A hospital may place a claim for the full amount of your unpaid medical costs in a hospital lien. The issue, however, is that the hospital can claim the list price for the service – not what you or your health insurance company actually would have paid. The difference between these two prices works in the hospital’s favor to maximize its revenue. Once you settle your auto accident case, the hospital will take a chunk of the money you receive for your damages and losses. This is money you would otherwise be able to use on your property repairs, lost wages or a new vehicle.

Can You Negotiate a Hospital Lien?

Hospital liens can be problematic for you as the plaintiff of an auto accident case in Texas. The hospital could inflate the charges claimed to take more of your settlement or judgment award than is fair. Furthermore, until you resolve your hospital lien, you will not receive the settlement check issued to you by the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Luckily, you may be able to negotiate and work around a hospital lien with assistance from a San Antonio car accident lawyer.

Your attorney will investigate your claim to let you know if a hospital has placed a lien on your personal injury claim. If so, your lawyer will evaluate the validity of the lien. Hospitals have to fulfill very specific requirements, such as properly notifying certain parties of the lien. If it misses any steps, the lien could be invalid.

From there, your attorney can work to negotiate the value of the lien down. Your lawyer could prove that an insurer already paid for part of your medical care, for example, or that the hospital is unreasonably inflating costs. Your car accident attorney can take many actions to diminish or dismiss the hospital lien in your case – ultimately maximizing the amount of money you recover for your damages.

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