Many personal injury victims, including those who have adequate health insurance coverage, do not seek medical care out of concern for the financial impact on their lives. Many worry about the burden of high deductible costs or co-pays. Nevertheless, you have several options for how to pay for your medical care when your injury was caused by the carelessness of another person. In reaching the conclusion that seeking medical care is a priority, it is important to recognize that the purpose of obtaining legal counsel is to discern the most prudent option.
Personal injury events resulting from an accident tend to get more expensive and more complicated as time goes on and the medical bills come in. The value of a personal injury attorney is that he or she functions as a representative voice on the client’s behalf, communicating directly with hospitals, care providers, and billing agencies. Often the most strategically sound option in the case of medical expenses that have accumulated following a personal injury accident is to speak with an attorney. It is also often the option that provides accident victims with the greatest peace of mind.
Health insurance providers have a contractual right to bring legal action against a negligent person (such as an at-fault driver) for the injuries sustained by a person covered by their policy. This enables them to recover expenses for medical care associated with personal injury. The process is called “subrogation.” In most cases, however, subrogation is both costly and time-consuming for an insurance company. For this reason, many health insurance providers are willing to collaborate with personal injury attorneys who bring legal action against an at-fault party on their client’s behalf. They may even be willing to reduce the “subrogation interest,” which is the amount that the personal injury victim is required to reimburse the health insurance provider once he/she has recovered damages. Hospitals and other medical providers often work with personal injury patients to defer payment until a legal case has been settled or resolved.
Texas hospitals have a legal right to file what is called a lien in the county where emergency services were provided to a personal injury victim. The purpose of the lien is for the hospital to protect themselves with reference to services provided, and the cost thereof. In the event the personal injury victim is able to reach a settlement or otherwise recover money from the careless person’s insurance, the insurance will not pay the personal injury victim until they know the hospital’s bill has been paid. This lien is very similar to the kind of lien that a bank would rely on if they loaned money to someone to buy a home or a car. The person with the loan could not sell the home or the car without paying the bank back. Similarly, the personal injury victim cannot settle their case with a liability insurance company without paying the hospital back.
Some hospitals unfortunately abuse the lien provision in order to recover more than the cost of their services. A lien against a patient’s settlement can be lucrative for a hospital, especially when the patient is covered by medical insurance. Instead of submitting a claim for the injured person’s medical expenses to the insurance company, which would likely result in reduced billing, the hospital might file a lien, notify the liability car insurance company about the lien, and hold a settlement hostage until the lien has been resolved. Doing so enables many hospitals to make a practice out of recovering more money for each personal injury case than they otherwise would.
A personal injury attorney has the expertise to guide an injured person through the overwhelming process of hospital billing and legal mechanisms like a lien. It is important to note that personal injury victims who wait a long time before taking action on a hospital lien runs the risk of losing valuable options. She or he may not be able to compel the hospital to submit the bill to his or her medical insurance company, an option that would potentially save the victim thousands of dollars.