Healthcare in the United States is expensive. When you are involved in an accident, you are often hit with unexpected costs related to medical care. However, you are not the only one that has to bear this expense. Your health insurance often pays for most of your healthcare after an accident. This is despite the fact that the at-fault party may really be the one who should be paying for these bills.
In some circumstances, your health insurance, the state and federal government, and even the hospital can assert a claim against your personal injury settlement to pay for the expenses related to your care that they covered. That is, the at-fault party should have paid for your medical care, so the individual or entity that actually footed the bill should be reimbursed.
To assert their rights for reimbursement, the payor can declare a lien against your personal injury settlement. A “lien” is essentially a demand for repayment.
Health Care and Hospital Liens
Some hospitals can assert a claim for reimbursement against anyone who is treated after an accident. The health care provider may specifically ask you to sign a lien letter, which recognizes that you will pay them out of any personal injury settlement or award that you receive.
For hospital lien to be valid, the hospital must follow very specific requirements. For example, most hospital liens must be recorded at the County recorder’s office. The recording must generally occur within 180 days of the time that you leave the hospital. The lien must also explicitly state all of your vital personal information and the dates that you receive service. Failure to follow any of the requirements under the statute could invalidate the lien. An invalid lien does not mean that you no longer have to pay your bill; the hospital just has fewer rights to collect the amount owed.
Other Medical Liens
Liens related to medical care are also applicable in other situations. For example, if the government pays any portion of your medical care, it can also assert a lien. This often occurs when the victim of a personal injury case receives care from programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and veteran’s benefits. These work slightly differently than a normal hospital lien, however.
If you are injured at work, you may be able to receive workers’ compensation to cover your medical bills. However, if your injury was some third party’s fault, your workers’ compensation carrier may be able to receive reimbursement from the third party for your medical expenses. These situations are somewhat rare, and they can get complicated. A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you deal with these issues.
Negotiating Medical Liens
Just because the hospital or other entity has a lien, that does not mean that you must pay it in full. In some situations, you may be able to negotiate with the lien holder so that you can pay less than the value of the claim. This is often more common in workers’ compensation cases, but there may also be room for negotiation and personal injury cases as well. Talk to Jim Glaser Law to determine your options after a personal injury accident.