Hospital bills piling up? We know how that goes. Literally. After you are injured in an accident, you will probably have several different kinds of bills related to medical services that were provided to you after the accident. You will likely have hospital bills, ER doctor’s bills, and emergency services bills, such as the EMS ambulance that treated you and transported you to the hospital. You will have the emergency room bill for the treatment you received there. Additionally, you may have subsequent treatment from your family doctor, or you may need to have additional treatment by a specialist. All of these providers will want to place a lien on your recovery, or put your account under a letter of protection to protect their right to recover money for the services they provided you once your case settles or goes to trial.
The job of a personal injury attorney is to determine which of these liens has priority and to settle these liens with the providers once your claim has been settled or a judgment has been paid. We often hear questions from injured clients and injured potential clients when they come meet with us in our Forney, Dallas, or Rockwall locations about how their doctor’s bills will end up affecting their recovery. In order to understand how these liens will affect your recovery for injuries you received here in Forney, Dallas, Rockwall or anywhere else in the State of Texas, you need to have a basic understanding of how the liens work and how they are perfected by the hospitals. Only then can we begin to understand how much they will affect your recovery.
How Do Hospital Liens Work?
When a medical provider such as a medical facility, doctor’s office, or emergency clinic provides hospital services for injuries caused in an accident, the provider has a lien on a cause of action or claim if the injured party is treated by a hospital not later than 72 hours after the incident. The lien extends to both the admitting hospital and a hospital that the individual was transferred to for treatment of the injuries.
For the lien to apply to emergency services providers, the individual must receive medical services in a county with a population of 800,000 or less and the person must receive the emergency medical services within 72 hours of the accident.
Once the services have been performed, the hospital will need to secure their lien AND perfect their lien. The hospital must file a written notice of the lien with the county clerk in which the services were provided. Within 5 business days after the provider receives back a notice from the clerk that the notice of lien has been filed, they must provide notice to the injured party notifying them that the lien attaches to any cause of action or claim they may have against another person for their injuries and that the lien does not attach to their real property. If the hospital follows these rules, they have effectively “perfected” their hospital lien.
How Does this Affect Your Recovery?
The Statute provides a hospital or emergency service provider’s lien is for the amount of the hospital’s charges for services for services provided to the injured individual during the first 100 days of injured person’s hospitalization. It may also include the physician’s reasonable and necessary charges for emergency hospital care provided to the injured person within the first 7 days of the person’s hospitalization.
This means that whatever the hospital charges is most likely the lien amount, and that is technically what you would have to pay out of any recovery you receive in a settlement or after a judgment. However, in the most common scenario, the hospital will not place a lien because your health insurer has paid all or a majority of the hospital bill OR the hospital will not have followed the guidelines talked about above for securing their lien rights. In that scenario, the insurance company will have a right to be repaid out of your settlement (subrogation lien) and your attorney will have to work with your personal health insurance plan regarding the amounts they are owed.
However, if the provider was not paid, the hospital ha secured and perfected the liens, and you receive a settlement or judgment award, your attorney’s will have to negotiate your liens with the hospitals or emergency providers that treated you. Negotiating your liens can be a complex process, especially if there is a recovery that does not fully cover all of the hospital liens.
It is important to note that regardless of the lien amount, Texas limits the amount that providers and insurance companies may recover from the injured party in a case. The limitation typically works out to no greater than 1/3 of the injured party’ recovery. In this event, if the amount of the liens is for more than the allowable 1/3, then your attorney will probably end up having to negotiate (and argue at length) with some of the lien holders about this limitation provided by state law.
In the end, the hospital liens will have the effect of reducing your recovery because the liens will have to get paid. However, how much the liens actually take from your recovery will depend on whether the 1/3 limitation applies. If your settlement is large enough to cover the liens, then negotiating them will be easier: you attorney will just try to get them to take less so that you can take more. However, if the lienholders are up against the limitation, then your attorney is actually in a good bargaining position because we are then aided by state law. But that does not mean the negotiating is any easier, it just means we will be able to reduce the liens further because state law requires the liens to be reduced at that point.
About Our Firm:
Guest and Gray, P.C. is an experienced litigation team serving all North Texas counties. We are the largest and highest rated law firm in Rockwall and Kaufman County. We regularly pursue and defend various civil litigation claims and personal injury claims. Our practice is quickly growing with offices now located in Dallas, Rockwall and our main office in Forney, Texas to provide convenience to our clients. We are longtime faces in our community and we love what we do. We seek to provide an air of calm and confidence for our clients during a difficult time. We believe that makes us a little bit different from everybody else, and we like it that way.
For more information, or if you are seeking legal advice, give us a call at (972) 564-4644