Imagine being the victim of a car accident in which you weren’t the at-fault driver. You need to seek medical treatment at the nearby hospital because the other car rear-ended your vehicle causing your head to swing forward, and you now have pain in your back and neck.
You can’t afford to think about money at a time when your health is more important.
Unfortunately, these situations often come with strings attached.
The strings come from the hospital that treated you in the form of a hospital lien seeking a claim on any money you might receive from a lawsuit settlement involving the accident.
A personal injury hospital lien in Texas is common, and the Texas hospital lien statute currently doesn’t always protect the well-being of the injured.
What Does It Mean When You Have a Hospital Lien?
If you’ve received papers from the hospital explaining that it’s placed a lien against you, you’re probably wondering, “What is a hospital lien?”
A hospital lien is a common practice after treating car crash victims who were not at fault for the accident.
The lien comes from the hospital to recover the money you owe for treating you in the emergency room or admitting you as a result of the accident. The hospital places a lien on the money you should receive from your future lawsuit or insurance monies from the accident.
Liens often happen if you’re not able to self-pay or don’t have enough insurance coverage to pay the bill, but hospitals may elect not to bill your insurance even if you have it. The hospital will likely skip the process of billing your insurance if it believes it will get a more substantial payment from placing a lien on your insurance or lawsuit settlement payment.
How Does a Hospital Lien Work?
Once a hospital treats you after an accident and draws up your bill, it can start the process of filing a lien.
Currently, Texas law provides that the hospital can file a claim against your settlement if you’re admitted to the hospital after examining you after your accident.
“Admission,” as it relates to a hospital lien in Texas, means being treated by the hospital in almost any way. Admission applies whether you were treated in the emergency room or admitted for a stay.
When you receive your bill for treatment, you may receive the notice of a lien along with it. The notice will explain your bill and how the hospital seeks compensation via the lien.
In most cases, a hospital can file a claim only if you signed the paperwork allowing them to do so, which you’ll often need to sign before the hospital staff begins treatment. You can usually find this document in your discharge paperwork.
What is the Texas Hospital Lien Statute?
The Texas hospital lien statute is the legislation that governs how a hospital can file and use a lien against you and your claim settlement following treatment. The current Texas hospital lien laws are notorious for being relatively lax in their protections for victims of car accidents.
What the Texas Hospital Lien Law Says
Texas modified its hospital lien statute in 2019 to give a more precise explanation of admission to a hospital to include treatment in any area of the hospital rather than just admission for a stay. The law states that a lien can only attach to your property when it admits you within 72 hours after your accident, meaning that you must begin treatment at the hospital within that time for the hospital to file the lien.
In Texas, a hospital lien can attach to the money owed to you in a settlement against the at-fault driver or another accident-related settlement.
However, hospitals are not allowed to place a lien on a worker’s compensation claim or your non-public liability insurance policy claim.
If the at-fault driver of your car accident was an uninsured motorist, you could file a claim with your insurance company against that driver. Texas hospital lien uninsured motorist regulations state that the hospital doesn’t have any claim on the money you receive from that settlement.
You might be legally responsible for a second lien if the first hospital transferred you to another hospital. The second hospital is also allowed to file a claim in this case.
Can a Hospital Lien Be Invalid in Texas?
If you’ve received notice of a personal injury hospital lien in Texas, you should do some research to find out if the lien is valid. Hospitals sometimes try to skirt around the law to file a lien without having the right to do so.
Texas says that hospitals have a legal right to a lien if you:
- Were treated in or admitted to the hospital within 72 hours of your accident
- You weren’t at fault for the accident, and you file a personal injury claim
If one or more of these factors don’t apply to you, then you’re not legally responsible for the lien and should contact legal representation for guidance.
It’s also important to note that hospitals must adhere to billing guidelines to file a valid lien.
Texas statute, for example, states that the hospital’s charges can’t exceed a reasonable rate. Look over your bill and research the average fees for services you received to determine if the hospital might be overcharging you.
You might be wondering, “Can a hospital put a lien on your house?”
A hospital can put a lien on your home for some past-due medical bills, but not for a personal injury hospital lien. These liens are strictly attached to the money you receive from a lawsuit settlement relevant to your car accident.
Hospital Liens and Insurance Claims
Hospitals issue you a lien without billing your insurance because your insurance company would require the hospital to settle for less than the full amount of the bill before it pays. Hospital bills related to car accidents can be hefty, so it’s not surprising that the hospital would want to receive the full charge.
However, this is unfortunate for people who have insurance that would cover most of the bill. You can, however, fight for your right for the hospital to bill your insurance for the cost by speaking with a billing supervisor.
How Can I Get a Hospital Lien Removed?
To remove a lien from your property, you’ll need to seek the help of a personal injury lawyer who’s experienced in helping clients remove or settle their hospital liens. Your lawyer can explain to you the legalese contained in the notice and work with you to negotiate the claim with the hospital.
In some cases, we may find discrepancies with the law that make the lien invalid, therefore removing its stake on your property.
In other cases, we can work out a settlement with the hospital that’s best for you. You must have money left from your settlement to pay for the injuries and damages you incurred, and we’ll negotiate with the hospital on your behalf to make sure that happens.
What to Do When Faced with a Hospital Lien
It’s important to remain calm if you receive a hospital lien notice. After reading the notice, understanding its terms, and doing some research, there are a few things you can do to get through the process:
Negotiate with the Hospital
First, you can try to negotiate the bill yourself.
In some cases, this may be all you need to do to settle with the hospital on a lower amount or convince the hospital to bill your insurance company. If you do agree with the hospital after negotiations, make sure that you get the agreement in writing.
Pay Your Bill
You also have the option of paying your bill yourself, but this is only a good idea if you’re uninsured and the bill is an amount you’re comfortable paying.
Try to negotiate with the hospital first to come to an amount you agree to, and ask for payment plans to reduce the financial burden.
Challenge the Lien
Finally, you can challenge the lien. This is the right option for people who have found faults in the lien that could prove the claim is invalid.
If you think this is the case, it’s best to contact a car accident attorney who can walk with you through the process and negotiate on your behalf. You may even earn the right to sue the hospital if you have enough proof stacked against the lien.
Texas hospital lien statute doesn’t favor the victims of car accidents, but you may still have the right to challenge a lien that you feel the hospital has placed unfairly.
A personal injury hospital lien in Texas has the power to wipe out your full settlement, leaving you with none of the money you need to get back on your feet.
Contact Hutchison & Stoy
At Hutchison & Stoy, we can help you navigate the lien process and get you the money you deserve.
Our personal injury lawyers are well-versed in these claims, as well as Texas law and statutory limitations that can challenge the lien.
Call us at (817) 820-0100 for a free case evaluation.