Brian White | March 14, 2023 | Personal Injury
If someone else injures you, you might find yourself unable to pay your medical expenses, even with health insurance. A hospital lien, also known as a medical lien, is a way of leveraging any future personal injury settlement or court judgment as collateral to assure your healthcare provider that you will eventually pay your medical bills.
Texas Hospital Lien Law
Under Texas hospital lien law, a lien in favor of your healthcare provider automatically attaches to your personal injury claim, including the proceeds of a future lawsuit or settlement. The lien also applies to any hospital to which you are transferred.
The following restrictions apply to emergency service providers (but not hospitals):
- It must be located in a Texas county with a population of no more than 800,000;
- Your claim must be based on negligence (as opposed to intentional misconduct, for example).
Please note that it is important to seek medical treatment within 72 hours for more than one reason. First, you might have trouble receiving treatment if a lien is not available. Second, even if a lien was available, your chances of losing your claim multiply if you delay seeking medical treatment. Some conditions, such as whiplash and traumatic brain injury, generate late-breaking symptoms.
If a person dies from their injuries and their survivors file a wrongful death lawsuit, your healthcare provider can enforce a lien from the proceeds of the lawsuit or any associated settlement.
Will My Settlement Be Sufficient to Pay My Medical Bills?
Your settlement should be sufficient to pay your medical bills. If it is not enough, the likely reason is:
- The accident was partly your fault, and you had to settle for less than full compensation under Texas’s comparative fault system.
- You settled for far less compensation than you should have.
You should always consult a personal injury lawyer before accepting a settlement from the insurance company. They can help you understand the value of your claim and protect you from allegations of comparative fault.
Your health insurance provider might pay part of your medical expenses. Nevertheless, ultimately it is the at-fault party who owes you for all of your medical expenses. Suppose the insurance company pays you, say, $14,000 out of $20,000 in total medical expenses. Further, suppose that the at-fault party paid you $20,000 pursuant to a settlement for your medical bills. The total would be $34,000 for $20,000 in medical bills.
You are not entitled to this much compensation. Your health insurance company would have a lien of $14,000 on your $20,000 settlement proceeds. This amount would go directly to your health insurance company without you ever seeing the money. The remaining $6,000 would belong to you. This is an example of how insurance subrogation works.
What Should You Do If Your Healthcare Provider Overcharges You?
One way your healthcare provider could shortchange you would be to overcharge you for medical services. Of course, you should wait until your healthcare provider issues you a final bill before you finalize the amount that the at-fault party owes you. Nevertheless, the at-fault party might balk at agreeing to pay obviously exorbitant medical expenses. You, too, should refuse to blindly accept excess medical expenses.
An even worse situation might arise if you have already received anticipated future medical expenses and your healthcare provider tries to overcharge you, leaving you without enough money to cover your complete healthcare needs. Your lawyer can help you sort things out.
Contact a Houston Personal Injury Lawyer for Help
If your claim is large enough to where your insurance isn’t enough to pay your medical bills, you probably need a personal injury lawyer to help you. The good news is that (i) since most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee, you won’t need any money upfront, and (ii) your claim might be worth more than you think it is, especially if you hire a lawyer.
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