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What are Hospital Liens in Auto Injury Cases?
February 16, 2017

What are Hospital Liens in Auto Injury Cases?

Photo by hayesphotography (iStock by Getty Images)

If you were injured in a car accident, were treated at a hospital and then received a hospital lien, you may be wondering what a hospital lien means for your auto injury case. We can help answer this and many accident injury questions for you.

Why Did I Get a Hospital Lien?

Why did you receive a hospital lien? It’s likely because you were treated for a car crash injury in an emergency room or at a hospital and were unable to pay the bill yourself or lacked insurance to cover it (though hospital liens also don’t attach to your own insurance if you have it).

By Texas law, a hospital has a legal right to issue a lien which protects it from this situation. With a hospital lien, the hospital in effect claims payment for its services from the negligent third party who was responsible for the accident — that is, the bad driver whose mistake caused your injury in an auto accident.

That law is the Texas Hospital and Emergency Services Lien statute first passed by the Texas Legislature in 1933. It is also known as Chapter 55 of the Texas Property Code.

A hospital lien will attach to the lawsuit or claim you file for your injuries in an auto accident if you were admitted to a hospital within 72 hours of the accident causing the injury. The lien will extend as well to any other hospital to which you are transferred along with any follow-up hospitalizations, all within the first 100 days of the accident injury occurring.

A hospital lien will not attach to workers’ compensation claims, first-party insurance proceeds (a claim with your own insurer) or wrongful death claims.

Hospitals are required by law to file the lien with the county clerk before the settlement is paid. With the lien in place, an auto liability insurance company must include the name of the hospital on any settlement checks.

Why Don’t Hospitals Bill My Health Insurance Instead?

As for why hospitals don’t just bill your health insurance instead of issuing a lien on your injury claim, the answer is simple: Hospitals hope to get paid more via your eventual injury case settlement than by billing your insurer directly for the injury.

If a hospital bills your insurance, it gets paid a contractually adjusted amount, rather than the full bill. By issuing a hospital lien on your claim, the hospital may get the full amount of its original bill out of its share of the settlement.

Unfortunately, this works against you, since hospitals tend to inflate their actual costs when billing for services, in anticipation of receiving a smaller portion of those costs. When a hospital lien is placed on your claim, a hospital may be paid the entirety of its inflated bill out of your settlement amount — which can leave you with nothing.

Why Don’t Hospitals Bill the Bad Driver’s Insurance?

You also may be wondering why hospitals don’t bill the insurer of the bad driver who caused your injury, rather than placing a lien on your injury claim. That’s because you won’t be paid anything for your auto liability insurance claim against the bad driver’s insurer until after all of your expenses for ongoing treatment are amassed.

It’s often months until the bad driver’s insurance company offers a lump sum settlement to compensate you for your injury costs, and hospitals don’t want to wait that long.

What Can I Do About a Hospital Lien?

As for what you can do about a hospital lien, you can contact a skilled injury attorney such as one from Jim Adler & Associates. An experienced injury lawyer can work to protect you from having your entire settlement go to a hospital, with nothing left to compensate you for your lost wages or your pain and suffering due to a bad driver’s negligence.

After an auto accident injury, you need a car accident injury lawyer to help protect you and your future settlement against a hospital lien.

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