When a person arrives at a hospital after a severe accident, there is no time to check their insurance and make sure they have the coverage required for the care they need. Texas law requires that hospitals provide treatment to anyone in need of emergency medical attention. So, what happens when a person receives medical care that they are not insured for and cannot pay for on their own? In the state of Texas, these types of debts are handled through medical liens.
What Is a Hospital Lien?
Liens allow hospitals that provide emergency care to uninsured patients to claim a portion of any legal award that the patient might receive for the accident. Specifically, Chapter 55 of the Texas Property Code states that “A hospital has a lien on a cause of action or claim of an individual who receives hospital services for injuries caused by an accident that is attributed to the negligence of another person.”
Liens are attached to a personal injury claim, providing a hospital with the ability to claim a percentage of a settlement or verdict claimed from the negligent party or their insurance company. A lien is typically sent as a notice to the person who received treatment. A hospital can only attach a lien to a person’s claim if it provided treatment within 72 hours of the patient's accident. Liens are transferable between hospitals.
Liens may attach to the following:
- Court judgments
- Insurance settlements
- Workers’ compensation claims
- Federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act claims
- Federal Employees Liability Act claims
Texas law provides additional limits to liens and what hospitals can do with them. First, a hospital can only place a lien on costs associated with a person’s first 100 days of treatment. Emergency room physicians, who frequently charge for care separate from hospitals, are only able to place a lien on the first seven days of a person’s care. Medical care providers cannot place a lien on individuals who received care in a county with a population less than 800,000. Finally, liens do not apply to excessive charges or ones above a reasonable rate for care.
Liens are only valid if they are done in the following way:
- The individual receiving the lien must receive the notice with their name, address, date of the accident, and the name and location of the hospital or provider. Additionally, the name of the party which caused the accident must be on the lien notice.
- The lien must be filed in the county in which the individual received medical care.
- The medical care provider must notify the patient of the lien within 5 days of filing.
If the rules listed above are not followed, it may be possible to invalidate a lien.
Why Liens Are Difficult to Resolve
Liens are difficult because some insurers will not honor a medical claim until the lien is addressed. This is because hospitals stand to make much more off a lien on a personal injury claim than if they went through a person’s health insurance. So, the other party’s insurance may refuse to pay a settlement until a lien is taken care of by the claimant. Claimants who desperately need a settlement often think that they must accept losing most of it to a hospital lien. However, this is not always the case with the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Sometimes, the size of a lien may be reduced through negotiation by your lawyer. At Arnold & Itkin, we’ve earned a reputation for standing up to some of the largest companies and entities in the world. While hospitals and other medical care providers have teams of lawyers at their disposal, we have a history of victories and vast resources. Our firm has successfully recovered billions of dollars for clients nationwide. We’ll never settle for less than a client deserves and won’t hesitate to hold at-fault parties accountable while making sure you can get the medical care you need.
Call us today to find out how we can fight for you at (888) 493-1629. Our car accident attorneys only charge a fee if we win your case!