Hospital Liens on Car Accident Settlements in Florida
Under Florida law, certain medical providers are permitted to assert liens on personal injury settlements. In this context, a hospital lien is just a fancy way of saying that the hospital wants to be paid for services rendered and has claimed its right to be paid. The lien is a claim for reimbursement, and the hospital may seek to be paid from the settlement of your car accident or other personal injury claim. However, any such lien asserted by a medical provider is limited to treatment rendered as a result of the accident that is the subject of the personal injury lawsuit.
What Does it Mean When You Have a Hospital Lien in Florida?
After a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, or any other accident, a person with serious injuries may need to go to the ER for treatment. In this context, the hospital will generally assert a lien in three different circumstances. First, the hospital may assert a lien when the hospital treated a person that did not have health insurance or was unable to pay for the treatment rendered. Second, the hospital may assert a lien if the person was insured, but the insurance company did not cover all the hospital bills. Finally, the hospital may assert a lien where another party was responsible for your injuries, like an at-fault driver, instead of filing with your insurance company.
Florida is one of the states that has no specific state statute regarding hospital liens. Instead, the counties in Florida make the rules regarding hospital liens. Importantly, a hospital lien in Florida is typically for the full amount of the medical services rendered, even if that amount of money is far more than the insurance company would have paid. This “full amount,” in fact, could be ridiculous and unreasonable and is sometimes referred to as the “Chargemaster Rate.”
Why Hospital Liens Can Be a Problem
A hospital lien is essentially a debt, and thus it can cause all the problems a typical unpaid debt could cause. Additionally, a hospital lien in Florida has priority over other benefits, like lost wages. Hospital liens are also typically not subject to a reduction for attorney fees. Thus, attorneys may be hesitant to take a case with a hospital lien because the hospital gets paid before anyone else. If the hospital lien is for a big amount of money, the lawsuit may only benefit the hospital. In other words, the hospital may be the only one that gets paid.
Although a hospital lien can have a powerful negative impact on you and your case, there are several things you can do to help your situation if you believe you have an unsettled hospital lien.
Verify the Hospital Lien Exists
Scams are extremely prevalent in today’s world. It’s an unfortunate reality. Scammers may have sent you something saying you have a hospital lien and asking for money. Before you consider sending a payment, you should check to make sure that there is, in fact, a hospital lien. As we talked about above, the laws regarding hospital liens in Florida are different in each county. Therefore, you will have to check with the clerk of court in your county to determine if you have a hospital lien.
Verify Whether the Hospital Notified You
Each county in Florida will have its own rules regarding the type of notice a hospital must give. However, if a hospital is able to assert a lien on your settlement proceeds, that hospital must give notice of its claim within the time set forth by the County Ordinance. Therefore, if you did not receive notice, and now the hospital is claiming a lien, the hospital’s lien may not be valid. In other words, the hospital may not have a right to your settlement proceeds if it did not follow the applicable procedural rules.
Verify the Amount of the Hospital Lien
Before you pay a hospital, whether it’s out of your personal injury settlement for your car accident or out of your bank account, you should verify exactly how much you owe the hospital. It’s not uncommon for a hospital to overbill its patients. Moreover, hospitals often fail to bill to insurance companies, as well as Medicare and Medicaid. As a result, the hospital’s purported lien could be much higher than what the hospital is entitled to. Thus, you should get all of your medical bills in hand, and you should be sure your lawyer reviews all of your medical bills to be sure you are not giving away money that is rightfully yours. Here are some of the ways you could reduce the hospital’s lien.
Look for Credits
If your insurance company has already paid for something, the hospital does not have the right to get paid twice. Additionally, if there are payments you made, including co-payments, these must also be removed from the lien. In other words, you should receive credit for whatever you and your insurance company have already paid. Additionally, you should receive credit for whatever any other person, like a family member, has paid on your behalf.
Look for Charges Unrelated to Your Personal Injury Claim
If a hospital is asserting a right to your settlement proceeds, the hospital only has a right receive reimbursement for medical treatment rendered as a result of the car accident or other incident that caused your injuries. In other words, the hospital can’t use your car accident settlement to pay for treatment you received that was unrelated to the car accident. Therefore, you should check the hospital lien to ensure all charges are related to the incident in question.
Look for Duplicate Charges
Hospitals may sometimes bill multiple times for a procedure. Thus, you should check your medical bills and the hospital lien to be sure that you were only charged once for your medical treatment. Check the date of treatment, the type of treatment, and the amount the hospital billed you for the treatment to verify whether the charge is valid or a double bill.