Dealing with a Lien on Your Personal Injury Settlement

A stethoscope sitting on medical bills with a calculator near.

After being hurt in a personal injury accident, it’s likely you will need immediate care for your injuries. However, you may not have the funds to pay for your treatment out of pocket.

Fortunately, Florida law allows a hospital to treat you with the understanding that they collect payment out of proceeds you receive in your injury settlement. Navigating the process of dealing with a lien on your settlement can be confusing, so you will want to work with an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure the best outcome possible.

What Is a Medical Lien?

A lien is a court order to pay a third party before you get paid. In the context of a personal injury lawsuit, a medical lien is a legal order that requires you to pay the hospital first out of the proceeds of your settlement. You get to keep whatever is left after you settle your debt to the hospital.

How Does a Medical Lien Work?

You receive emergency treatment for your injuries after an accident. You then bring a claim for recovery against the person responsible for your losses. The hospital files a notice with the county that they’re placing a lien on your recovery.

That means that you have to settle your hospital debt out of the proceeds of your claim. Typically, hospitals file medical liens against patients. However, the State of Florida may also file a lien to recover Medicaid payments made to a hospital on behalf of an accident victim.

Liens Come From Both State and County Law

In the State of Florida, most laws are state laws. However, both state laws and county laws can impact medical liens and how to handle them. There are state laws that discuss insurance contracts and Medicaid and Medicare billing.

There are also county laws that impact how the hospital files their lien and what they have to do to enforce it. It’s essential to research the laws where your treatment occurs and where you bring your case to make sure that you handle the lien correctly.

Why Are Medical Liens Important?

It’s important to identify and handle your medical lien as part of your claim to negotiate a fair resolution to your personal injury lawsuit. You need to make sure that your settlement resolution covers your medical bills and then leaves some for property damages, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses. Knowing what you’re going to pay the hospital can help you determine if you should agree to a settlement or take your case to trial.

It’s also important to resolve the medical lien to stay compliant with the law and avoid complications with your case. When your case ends, you want it to be over. You don’t want a medical debt rearing its ugly head after the ink is dry on your legal claim.

Typically, you must involve the lienholder in your settlement. You have to tell them about the case, and they must agree to release the lien as part of the settlement. Addressing the lien helps you ensure that when your case is done, it’s entirely done.

What If I Have Insurance?

When you have insurance, the lien against you may not be valid. If you have insurance or an HMO, your provider has taken steps to negotiate special rates for medical treatment on your behalf. You’re not paying sticker price when you receive medical treatment.

If you’re covered by insurance or an HMO, the hospital usually can’t file a lien for the difference between the negotiated rate and the sticker price. The insurer is the responsible party for your medical bills minus copays and deductibles. Florida law 641.315 says that the HMO and not the patient is the responsible party for medical treatment. Most insurance contracts have similar language in their provider contracts.

What Do I Do to Protect Myself?

When you have a personal injury claim in Florida, it’s important to be aware of the existence of medical liens and determine if they apply to your case. Even though the lienholder should give you notice of the lien, your attorney can help you research to see if there are any liens on your case. If there are, your attorney can help you address them.

Challenging the Lien

The first step is to determine if the lien is valid. While the lien exists as soon as you enter the hospital to receive care, the hospital still must file the lien with county officials to demand payment. There are time limits for filing. Your attorney should work with you to research and evaluate the lien laws in your county to determine if the lien against you is valid. If the lien against you is valid on its face, there are still some things that you may be able to do to challenge the lien.

First, you can dispute clerical errors in the lien. Second, the hospital must provide you services at a reasonable rate. You can challenge the lien on the grounds that the hospital is asking too much for their services. It’s not enough just to show that the hospital offers lower contracted rates for insurance beneficiaries. However, if nearby health care providers have lower rates, the court might agree with you that the hospital rates are unfair.

How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help?

An important part of handling your personal injury claim is negotiating your lien. Arranging a lower payment for your medical treatment can help you resolve your claim.

A medical provider may be willing to accept less payment in exchange for helping you resolve the claim and making sure that they get paid. Your attorney handles these negotiations and also takes care of executing the final paperwork to discharge the lien as part of the resolution of your case.

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Working with Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys

At Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, we have extensive experience negotiating medical liens for our clients and understand how crucial this is to the success of a case. We are committed to determining whether there are liens that apply to your case and strategizing what we can do to minimize your liens and maximize your payment.

If you have been injured and need help dealing with a medical lien, call us at (813) 333-6666 or fill out our contact form to schedule your free case evaluation. There is no fee unless we win.