If you’re injured in an accident, seeking medical attention should be your main priority. Unfortunately, if you didn’t have health insurance at the time of the accident, you may have been shocked and upset to learn the hospital or medical facility that treated you intends to place a lien on your injury settlement.
A lien is a serious matter that can have a significant impact on your financial recovery. Dealing with a medical lien is stressful under any circumstances. It can feel especially overwhelming if you’re still struggling to cope with a recent injury.
To learn more about medical liens and what you can do if a medical facility puts a lien on your settlement, contact The top Atlanta personal injury lawyers at Butler Kahn.
What Is a Medical Lien?
Medical liens are special types of court documents. Hospitals and other facilities that file medical liens typically file a notice of intent 15 days before a lien is in place to let the patient know what’s going on.
A medical lien serves to notify the court of an outstanding debt that must be paid to a medical facility such as a hospital or doctor’s office. This kind of unpaid debt is typically paid off before you receive payment on a settlement or judgment. Medical liens are filed to ensure the debt will be repaid properly.
If there is no money awarded in a settlement or court verdict, the medical facility that filed the lien will not be paid. It’s standard procedure for most Georgia hospitals to file medical liens when treating patients without health insurance. This is because hospitals do not expect people without health insurance to pay their hospital bills.
Hospitals put liens on uninsured patients’ settlements to increase their chances of receiving the funds they are owed when patients’ injury cases settle or result in a verdict and judgment. A medical lien is attached to your injury claim itself, not you as a person. It won’t affect your personal or business credit rating. A lien is also not considered evidence of your failure to pay a debt since a lien is not a type of debt in itself.
Hospitals and other medical facilities cannot attach medical liens to your home like the IRS would do with a tax lien. The medical lien is designed to protect the hospital’s right to be reimbursed for the services it provides. Therefore, this kind of lien would only apply to payouts you receive from the at-fault driver’s insurance company or your own uninsured motorist policy.
Who Can Place a Medical Lien?
Any insurance provider or medical facility in Georgia with a medical doctor (MD) on staff is legally permitted to place a lien on an injury case settlement. A medical lien can be filed by facilities such as:
- Nursing homes
- Physician’s practices
- Intensive care clinics
- Medicare or Medicaid
- Veterans Affairs (VA)
- PPO and HMO organizations
- Health insurance providers
- Auto insurance providers
- Workers’ compensation insurance providers
It’s important to note that medical liens generally only affect injury cases involving people with no health insurance. When individuals carry health insurance, medical facilities bill the patients’ insurance providers to recover the funds they need. However, even if an insurance provider partially or fully covered your medical care, they may still file a medical lien to recover the portion of the money they paid out for your bills.
Will a Medical Lien Impact My Settlement?
Although a medical lien won’t affect your credit, it can impact any money you receive from your injury case. A medical lien represents a company’s legal right to recover money from your settlement or judgment, which means it can significantly reduce your total take-home payment.
If the medical lien is particularly expensive, the amount of compensation you actually take home after your case is resolved may be barely enough to cover your expenses. This is why it’s so important to fully understand the scope of any medical liens placed on your settlement.
To pursue a payout that meets all of your needs, an attorney can help you evaluate factors such as your personal payment amounts, the lien payments requested by providers, and your other accident-related expenses.
Negotiating Medical Liens
A medical lien can take up a large chunk of your injury settlement. Fortunately, there may be a way to negotiate more favorable terms for a medical lien with the help of a knowledgeable attorney.
Medical lienholders typically just want to make sure they recover at least some portion of the money they’re owed within a reasonable amount of time. This means they are often willing to work with attorneys to reduce payment demands for medical liens. This is especially true if the lienholder is a private insurance company or if the lienholder is requesting more payment than what they should be owed.
In some cases, a medical facility may bill uninsured patients more than a health insurance company would pay for a particular treatment. If the facility tries to enforce a lien for this higher amount, a lawyer may be able to negotiate for a smaller sum.
When Do You Need Legal Help When Dealing With Medical Liens?
Any injury claim can be complex and time-consuming. Medical liens tend to make the process even more puzzling. It may be a good idea to work with a qualified attorney if any of the following apply to your case:
- You aren’t sure why a lien was placed on your injury settlement.
- You need help understanding the basics of the medical lien process.
- You believe the medical lien was filed in error.
- You suspect the value of the medical lien is greater than what you truly owe.
- You are concerned that you won’t have enough money to cover your accident-related losses after the lien is paid off.
- You feel uncertain or uncomfortable about dealing with insurance providers or medical facilities to resolve the lien.
Contact Butler Kahn Today
At Butler Kahn, we’re prepared to do what it takes to pursue the most favorable outcome possible in your injury case. This means digging deep into the facts and developing a deliberate strategy with your best interests in mind.
We do not collect legal fees unless we win compensation for your case, and our initial consultations are always free. Contact us if you would like to discuss your personal injury case with an experienced lawyer.