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Hospital Lien Statutes and Their Impact On Your Personal Injury Claim

by John Gomez | Last Updated: December 28, 2021

Hospital Lien Statute

One aspect of a personal injury case is a hospital lien. Liens can be a hassle for many people since they need to give money to medical providers before they can enjoy their reimbursement. Hospitals can charge you more when they file a lien, and many patients find them unfair.

If you got into an accident, you might come across a hospital lien while you look into filing a claim. Liens can impact your ability to recover from your injuries. If you have insurance, your provider receives one as well.

Attorneys can be helpful when you have to deal with a hospital lien. They can answer any questions you might have about yours.

For-Profit and Non-profit Hospitals

Thousands of hospitals operate across the United States. You could end up in one of two types. One category is for-profit, and the other one is non-profit. Non-profit hospitals tend to have tax exemptions like any other non-profit organization. They also offer more community-based health programs.

All hospitals have to provide stabilizing care to patients and make sure they are out of danger. For-profit hospitals can release a person afterward if they cannot pay for further treatment. Non-profit ones must accept patients regardless of insurance status.

A non-profit hospital charges lower rates for most of its medical procedures. A person might want to visit a non-profit, but they might not live near one. While non-profits are ideal for injuries and illnesses, for-profit hospitals often are near low-income areas.

Regardless of what type of facility you go to for treatment, you could end up with a high medical bill. Medical expenses are a problem for many people. Hospitals have ways of recovering the costs of services if someone does not have the funds to pay the bill.

The Average Costs of Hospital Stays

Personal injury cases can come from car accidents, slip and falls, and workplace incidents. Every year, people across the country spend an average of $4 trillion on health care services. The average cost of a daily hospital visit in the country is $2,607. The average bill can be different in each state.

A patient’s bill can include the price of medications, X-rays, and surgical procedures. Usually, hospitals negotiate with insurance companies regarding the coverage of specific services. Even with insurance, medical expenses can impact a person’s finances.

Someone with no insurance can suffer more from high healthcare costs. An estimated 28 million people do not have some type of medical insurance. The number of uninsured people under 19 has increased in recent years.

Another person could have insurance, but the policy might not provide enough coverage. Roughly 28 percent of adults in the workforce are underinsured. Many of them get insurance through an employer.

When an uninsured or underinsured person deals with hospital expenses, they might receive a notice of a lien. Hospital liens make daily life a struggle for people, especially for those with low-incomes. Additionally, they become an obstacle when you claim damages after an accident.

What Is a Hospital Lien?

Many people visit a hospital after a personal injury accident. Car collisions usually result in the need to seek medical attention. After you get treatment from a hospital, you might receive a notice about a hospital lien. If you are unsure what a hospital lien is, you are not alone.

A person could have to compensate for one if they had no insurance or could not pay the bill out of pocket. Hospitals can still provide emergency care to underinsured patients and be able to increase revenue. Even non-profit hospitals may file one against someone to recover the costs of services.

A hospital or physician’s practice generally attaches a lien to a personal injury action instead of the victim. After a case settles, the facility would claim a portion of the awarded amount. One reason why plaintiffs do not get their compensation right away is if they need to wait for their lawyers to pay off any liens.

Other types of liens impact your home or other assets. You would not be able to sell your house until you pay off the owed amount. However, a hospital does not attach one to your property in multiple states.

In many places, a lien can transfer between hospitals and practices. The value of one can vary from patient to patient. Multiple people end up with a lien with a value greater than the original bill. For instance, someone could have to pay $2,500 under Medicaid.

However, the price could rise to over $12,000 if the hospital files a lien. You might lose a considerable amount of money from your reimbursement. You can speak to a lawyer about how your hospital lien affects your compensation.

Hospital Lien Laws

Each state can have different laws regarding hospital liens. In several places, the statute states a healthcare facility can only file a lien for injuries a negligent party caused. The rules usually specify when a medical facility can issue a lien. The window to send a notice can be short.

A hospital might have 10 days or 90 days after a patient’s discharge. A few jurisdictions allow the institution to attach a lien if it provided care in a specific amount of time after the accident. The general rules for a valid claim involve the necessity to include the individual’s name, address, and date of the accident. A lien’s notice has to list the name of the party liable for the injuries. The document should contain the name and location of the provider as well.

Multiple states can place limits on hospital liens. The law might only allow a hospital to place a claim on the costs of the initial days of treatment. For instance, the lien is for the first 100 days of care.

Other limits set the maximum amount of a settlement a hospital can receive. The maximum could be as high as 40 percent in one state. You need to speak to your attorney to get an understanding of your state’s hospital lien statute.

Explicit and Hidden Liens

A hospital lien could be explicit, or it could be a hidden one. An explicit lien refers to when the injured victim signs an agreement to pay the medical facility after a lawsuit resolves. They usually understand they have to pay back the cost of medical services at a later date.

With an explicit lien, the hospital is willing to continue treatment if you provide a Letter of Protection. The document is a signed agreement to pause payments until your personal injury case settles. Some people use Letter of Protection and lien interchangeably.

You would need to allow your attorney to authorize the document. However, the burden of the hospital bills does not pass on to the lawyer.

Many injured parties become less frustrated with explicit liens compared to hidden ones. However, you might have less room for negotiation after you sign the agreement.

A hidden lien means the injured party is not aware of the lien until settlement comes around. Most people may not know they have one since they did not sign any paperwork. Generally, HMOs and PPOs are behind hidden liens.

Usually, the fine print applies a lien. However, an injured patient might not have read the fine print. In some cases, an attorney can find a loophole to mitigate a complete payback of expenses until a personal injury case ends.

Resolving Hospital Liens Is Complex

Overall, you could have a difficult time when you try to resolve a hospital lien. An insurer might not honor a medical claim until you pay off the lien because it can make more revenue with a lien against a personal injury claim.

Multiple insurance providers make liens more complex. A patient could be a dual beneficiary of Medicare and Medicaid. Additionally, various administrators could run the different Medicare plans. One company could handle Parts A and B, and another offers Part D.

A person could have to return to the hospital more than one time, and they could face a couple of liens at once. You may end up with multiple health care claims to resolve and have to go through different insurers.

Liens are not a straightforward business, but a lawyer can handle the process for you.

Reducing or Invalidating a Hospital Lien

More and more people have become aware of a hospital’s billing practice. If you have an expensive lien, you should reach out to an attorney for assistance. In some cases, lawyers can negotiate for a reduced claim. At other times, the lien is invalid.

Many states require a hospital lien to follow specific rules to remain valid. The filing of a lien might need to take place in the county where you received medical treatment. Another requirement is the notice has to include details like your name and address.

The hospital might have filed outside the statute of limitations as well. Your attorney could invalidate the hospital lien if the health care facility failed to perfect the document properly. The firm understands the laws of hospital liens and can advocate for you.

Some liens can restrict your ability to recover fully. An attorney helps protect your well-being while they work on your personal injury case. Several people do not hire a lawyer to represent them after an accident due to fees and costs.

However, a firm can potentially save you more money in the long run.

What Happens if a Person Loses a Case?

The success rate for personal injury lawsuits is high. Most end in the victim’s favor before they go to trial. In multiple cases, the settlement is lower than the cost of medical bills. Your attorney still has to distribute the money to medical providers out of obligation.

However, a small percentage of plaintiffs lose their cases. Some of them have hospital liens to pay. Since liens depend on compensation, you might wonder what happens if someone does not win. The person could face an issue, especially if they had signed an agreement.

More and more people have become aware of a hospital’s billing practice. If you have an expensive lien, you should reach out to an attorney for assistance. In some cases, lawyers can negotiate for a reduced claim. At other times, the lien is invalid.

Hospital Liens and Other Factors Can Delay Compensation

Once both parties agree on a settlement, you need to wait a while longer for the paycheck. Some people expect to get the money on the same day of the settlement. However, most people wait two to four weeks to get their compensation. The timeline can last longer for a few plaintiffs.

A couple of factors could delay the settlement process. The liable party’s insurance company withholds payment until you sign a release form. The document relieves the defendant from liability in the future for the same accident.

Of course, both parties have to complete an Order of Settlement within 30 or 60 days. Lost paperwork can happen, and missing documents means a longer wait time. Another reason for a delay is the overload of settlement paycheck processing.

The system processes thousands of checks a year, and a slowdown can occur. Once your attorney receives the payment, they put the money in a separate escrow account. You would need to wait for the funds to clear, and the lawyer pays any attorney fees and costs.

Hospitals and other types of liens can prevent you from receiving the money sooner. Your attorney distributes the funds to the entities with liens against you. Afterward, you obtain the final compensation through the mail.

You need to keep any hospital liens in mind when you ask for the amount of compensation in the demand letter. Your personal injury attorney can maximize the value of your case, and you can get a fair reimbursement after the money goes to the medical facility.

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