In Texas, when someone is seriously injured, hospitals are required to provide medical treatment, regardless of the individual’s ability to pay. When emergency medical providers treat someone who is injured due to another’s negligence, they are allowed to file a personal injury lien (a.k.a. hospital lien) for medical bills that the victim cannot pay.
Let’s say Bob was injured when Sally T-boned his car as she ran a red light. Bob was rushed to the hospital and racked up thousands of dollars in emergency treatment expenses, but Bob has no insurance and no money to pay the mounting medical bills. Shortly after getting released from the hospital, Bob receives notice of a hospital lien in the mail. What does this mean for Bob?
Under Chapter 55 of the Texas Property Code, when someone receives emergency medical treatment following an accident “that is attributed to the negligence of another person,” the hospital and other emergency medical providers can file a lien in their county of service. In the event that the injury victim brings a lawsuit against the negligent party, this lien gives the hospital the right to get paid first from any settlement. If Bob sues Sally and is awarded a $20,000 settlement, the hospital gets to take what it’s owed before any remaining funds can be distributed to Bob.
At DeHoyos Law, our experienced Houston personal injury lawyers have successfully represented countless accident victims, and we have an impressive track record of obtaining substantial settlements for our clients. Contact us today at 832-745-4878 for a free and confidential consultation about your case.
Problems with Hospital Liens
On the surface, this may sound like a fairly straightforward and reasonable system, but personal injury liens can create myriad problems for an accident victim. Unfortunately, hospitals often refuse to submit bills to a patient’s insurance company when they know that the injuries are due to another’s negligence. This is especially true of injuries sustained in car accidents.
Knowing that health insurers are likely to refuse payment for emergency medical treatment when the negligent party has auto insurance, charges included in hospital liens are often much higher than they would be if submitted to the victim’s health insurer. Consequently, the victim often receives a substantially smaller settlement check than expected.
Furthermore, insurance companies will not pay any settlement to the injury victim until they are certain that all outstanding liens have been satisfied. This can lead to significant delays in the time it takes to receive a much needed settlement. When you are unable to work due to an injury and bills are piling up, even minor delays can be disastrous.
The good news is, if you understand how personal injury liens are governed in Texas, you can combat these unfair tactics and ensure that you receive the full settlement you’re entitled to in a timely manner. The bad news is, most people have little to no knowledge about personal injury liens. Not to mention, the last thing anyone wants to do while recovering from a serious injury is negotiate with hospitals, auto insurers, and health insurance companies. That’s why having an experienced Houston injury lawyer by your side is so important.
How Texas Personal Injury Liens Work
In order for a hospital lien to be filed in Texas, the injury victim must receive treatment within 72 hours of the accident. If the treatment begins outside of that 72-hour window, no lien can be applied. It’s important to note, however, that if you do begin treatment within 72 hours and are transferred to another hospital for further treatment, the lien can extend to the transfer hospital.
There are also a few counties in Texas where hospital liens cannot be applied due to population numbers. If you receive treatment in a county with more than 800,000 people, hospital liens are not permitted.
A personal injury lien can be attached to a personal injury claim whether you receive a settlement or your case goes to trial. It cannot, however, be attached to claims for workers’ compensation, proceeds from uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, or to settlement proceeds you received before the lien was filed.
Are the Charges Reasonable?
In Texas, a hospital lien only applies to the first 100 days of hospitalization, and only to charges that do not “exceed a reasonable and regular rate for the services.” If you believe that any charges included in the lien fall outside of the 100-day window, or would not be considered reasonable, an attorney experienced in Texas hospital liens may be able to get the lien reduced. Furthermore, any funds recovered from health insurance should not be included in the lien total.
How a Houston Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
In order for a lien to be valid, the provider of emergency medical services must send an official notice to the injury victim and to the negligent party, if known. The provider must also file the lien with the appropriate county clerk. If any rules are not followed, the lien may be deemed invalid. A Houston personal injury lawyer can review your case to determine if the hospital followed all requirements for placing the lien. Your attorney can also help you:
- Demand that the hospital bills your health insurance;
- Determine if the hospital’s charges are reasonable;
- Remove the lien if treatment began outside of the 72-hour window;
- Remove charges that occurred outside of the 100-day window;
- Negotiate with the provider to reduce some or all charges.
Contact DeHoyos Law Today
If you have been injured due to the negligence of another, the skilled legal team at DeHoyos Law can help. We have been protecting the rights of injury victims in and around Houston for years, and our experienced, knowledgeable team of attorneys has an impressive track record of obtaining the compensation our clients deserve in a timely manner.
A personal injury can lead to more than just physical and emotional pain; financial losses can be devastating. If you are unable to work due to an injury, the entire family can suffer as a result. Let us help. Contact DeHoyos Law today at 832-745-4878 for a free and confidential consultation about your case.