If you received a hospital lien in the mail, don’t panic! Hospital liens are a pretty standard procedure when a person has received medical treatment (usually at a hospital) within 72 hours of a car, truck, or another type of accident.
Hospital Liens and the State of Texas
A hospital lien is written into the State of Texas statutes. The general principle of this law is to protect hospitals when someone gets treatment from an accident that is caused by a third party. The statute is designed to make sure the hospital gets paid for its services.
In short, the hospitals and emergency services providers are allowed to claim payment out of any money recovered by a personal injury claim against someone who caused the injury (the third party). The hospital lien applies only in emergency situations and for reasonable and necessary medical care provided as a result of the emergency.
For example, if you are injured in a car accident, and you are taken to the hospital for treatment, the hospital has to treat you. A hospital cannot reject an injured patient due to an inability to pay. For example, if you are indigent or uninsured. A hospital lien gives a hospital a superior legal right to recovery. In other words, in Texas, hospitals can get paid back before you do if you have a claim for recovery against a negligent third party.
Hospitals commonly file liens against accident victim patients in order to recover their charges. This is not uncommon as the injured patient’s files are “flagged” as car or truck wreck injuries. Nearly every Texas hospital has its billing department filing hospital liens. Hospital liens are filed in the public county property records and secure the hospital’s right to payment for the debt.
The hospital lien statute is very strict and simple. If you settle your case, but didn’t realize that there was a hospital lien, or simply ignored it, the hospital can sue you for the charges, and also collect attorney’s fees. However, not every lien filed may be valid or perfect.
Criteria for Valid Hospital Liens
It is important to understand the rules regarding hospital liens to ensure that you don’t overpay a lien as well as ensure that you properly obtain a Release of Hospital Lien.
For a hospital lien to be valid, the patient care must be within 72 hours. If the treatment happened (started) more than 72 hours after the accident, the lien is invalid.
The Notice of Hospital Lien must contain the following information:
- Patient’s name and address
- The date of the accident
- Name and address of the hospital
- Name of the person who is liable for the injury
The notice of lien must contain all of that information or the lien is not valid. One common thing to look for is whether the notice lists the patient as being the person who is liable for the injury. If the notice lists the patient as being the liable party, the lien is invalid.
Why Patients Receive Liens
You most likely received a hospital lien because you were recently treated at a hospital for an injury that was caused by someone else’s negligence. This is very common when someone is treated for an injury related to a truck or car wreck.
The hospital usually files their lien in the County records and then sends notice of the lien to you, your lawyer, and/or any insurance company representing the person who caused your injury (the third party that may have caused your injuries).
If you received a hospital lien in the mail, please contact my law firm immediately to discuss your options!
Why the Hospital Has the Right to File Liens
The State of Texas gives the hospital the right Under Texas Property Code 55.002(a). Under this statute, hospitals are automatically granted a lien against “a cause of action or claim of an individual who receives hospital services for injuries caused by an accident that is attributed to the negligence of another person.”
In more simple language, if you are injured due to the negligence of another (a third party), the hospital lien for the related care attaches to your claim immediately.
The actual statute reads:
(a) A lien under this chapter attaches to:
(1) a cause of action for damages arising from an injury for which the injured individual is admitted to the hospital or receives emergency medical services;
(2) a judgment of a court in this state or the decision of a public agency in a proceeding brought by the injured individual or by another person entitled to bring the suit in case of the death of the individual to recover damages arising from an injury for which the injured individual is admitted to the hospital or receives emergency medical services; and
(3) the proceeds of a settlement of a cause of action or a claim by the injured individual or another person entitled to make the claim, arising from an injury for which the injured individual is admitted to the hospital or receives emergency medical services.
(b) The lien does not attach to:
(1) a claim under the workers’ compensation law of this state, the Federal Employees Liability Act, or the Federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act; or
(2) the proceeds of an insurance policy in favor of the injured individual or the injured individual’s beneficiary or legal representative, except public liability insurance carried by the insured that protects the insured against loss caused by an accident or collision.
(c) A hospital lien described by Section 55.002 (Lien)(a) does not attach to a claim against the owner or operator of a railroad company that maintains or whose employees maintain a hospital in which the injured individual is receiving hospital services.
What the Hospital Lien Covers
The code states:
Amount of Lien
(a) In this section, “emergency hospital care” means health care services provided in a hospital to evaluate, stabilize, and treat a serious medical problem of recent onset or severity, including severe pain that would lead a prudent layperson possessing an average knowledge of medicine and health to believe that the condition, illness, or injury is of such a nature that failure to obtain immediate medical care would in all reasonable probability:
(1) seriously jeopardize the patient’s health;
(2) seriously impair one or more bodily functions;
(3) seriously harm an organ or other part of the body;
(4) cause serious disfigurement; or
(5) in the case of a pregnant woman, seriously jeopardize the health of the fetus.
(b) A hospital lien described by Section 55.002 (Lien)(a) is for the lesser of:
(1) the amount of the hospital’s charges for services provided to the injured individual during the first 100 days of the injured individual’s hospitalization; or
(2) 50 percent of all amounts recovered by the injured individual through a cause of action, judgment, or settlement described by Section 55.003 (Property to Which Lien Attaches)(a).
(c) A hospital lien described by Section 55.002 (Lien)(a) may also include the amount of a physician’s reasonable and necessary charges for emergency hospital care services provided to the injured individual during the first seven days of the injured individual’s hospitalization. At the request of the physician, the hospital may act on the physician’s behalf in securing and discharging the lien.
(d) A hospital lien described by Section 55.002 (Lien)(a) does not cover:
(1) charges for other services that exceed a reasonable and regular rate for the services;
(2) charges by the physician related to any services provided under Subsection (c) for which the physician has accepted insurance benefits or payment under a private medical indemnity plan or program, regardless of whether the benefits or payment equals the full amount of the physician’s charges for those services;
(3) charges by the physician for services provided under Subsection (c) if the injured individual has coverage under a private medical indemnity plan or program from which the physician is entitled to recover payment for the physician’s services under an assignment of benefits or similar rights;
(4) charges by the physician related to any services provided under Subsection (c) if the physician is a member of the legislature; or
(5) charges for which recovery is barred under Section 146.003 (Certain Claims Barred), Civil Practice and Remedies Code.
(e) A hospital lien described by Section 55.002 (Lien)(a) is not affected by a hospital’s use of a method of classifying patients according to their ability to pay that is solely intended to obtain a lien for services provided to an indigent injured individual.
(f) An emergency medical services lien described by Section 55.002 (Lien)(c) is for the amount charged by the emergency medical services provider, not to exceed $1,000, for emergency medical services provided to the injured individual during the 72 hours following the accident that caused the individual’s injuries.
(g) An emergency medical services lien described by Section 55.002 (Lien)(c) does not cover:
(1) charges for services that exceed a reasonable and regular rate for the services;
(2) charges by the emergency medical services provider related to any services for which the emergency medical services provider has accepted insurance benefits or payment under a private medical indemnity plan or program, regardless of whether the benefits or payments equal the full amount of the charges for those services; or
(3) charges by the emergency medical services provider for services provided if the injured individual has coverage under a private medical indemnity plan or program from which the provider is entitled to recover payment for the provider’s services under an assignment of benefits or similar right.
(h) If the physician is employed in that capacity by an institution of higher education, as defined by Section 61.003 (Definitions), Education Code, and the lien does not include the amount of the physician’s reasonable and necessary charges described by Subsection (c), the physician has a lien on the cause of action in the same manner as a hospital under this chapter. The lien is subject to provisions of this chapter applicable to a hospital lien, and the physician or the physician’s employing institution may secure and enforce the lien in the manner provided by this chapter.
Settled Claims Before the Hospital Lien was Filed
If you settle a personal injury claim before a hospital lien was filed, you may have gotten around the full payment of the lien for now, but know that this does not erase your actual hospital bill incurred.
Whether there is a lien or not, the injured patient (the person who incurred the medical services) still has an obligation to pay the hospital’s bills. If the patient fails to pay their outstanding bill, the hospital has four years from the date the services were provided to sue the patient to collect on the bills.
The Texas Hospital Lien Law simply extends the recourse that a hospital may seek to the tortfeasor, his insurance company, and/or representatives, and your attorney, if any of them fail to honor the lien after notice of the lien, is perfected. To enforce the actual lien, it must be “perfected.” The lien-holder is required to send written notice of the lien to the patient as well as file a notice of lien with the county clerk where the services were performed. The notice further must be filed before the money is paid to the injured party. Thus, if after a car accident another driver’s insurance pays the injured victim before a lien is filed, the hospital has no claim against the insurance company.
What You Should Do Once a Hospital Lien is Received
If you already have a personal injury lawyer handling your case, you should turn the hospital lien notice over to your lawyer. If you do not have an attorney, and another person is at fault for your injuries, you should consult an attorney as soon as possible.
Never settle your personal injury claim against the negligent person without making sure you have enough money and/or a plan to settle the hospital lien.
If you were at fault for the injury, then the lien cannot attach to your property. It only attaches to a claim for compensation that you have against another party for your injuries.
Request a Free Initial Consultation
If you are injured and believe you have been a victim of someone else’s negligence, call me at 281-929-0110 for a free initial consultation. For emergencies, please feel free to text me at 832-797-7600.
As your personal injury lawyer, I will only receive a fee if we recover a settlement or jury verdict for you. In other words, you don’t pay any legal fees unless I make a financial recovery for you!