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When you are rushed to a hospital after a car crash, the cost for treatment and testing often exceeds $10,000. But instead of filing on limited insurance policies, the hospital can file a hospital lien to guarantee that it will be paid in full from your settlement or verdict. This is unfair and can wreck settlements. A major national newspaper just reported about the abuses with hospital liens. It noted that one hospital makes a shocking $10 million a year this way. How rich hospitals profit from patients in car crashes However, sometimes the hospital does not follow Texas law and its lien is not enforceable.

What are the requirements for a hospital lien to be valid?

The statute lists various requirements that must be strictly followed. These are some of the common errors made:
  • The required information is omitted;
  • The patient is admitted after the allowable time;
  • The facility does not file the hospital lien with the correct county clerk or at all;
  • The hospital charges too much;
  • The medical treatment is for too long of a period of time; and/or
  • The hospital accepts partial payment.

Is there a limit to the amount covered by the lien?

Yes, the amount must be reasonable for necessary services to treat a serious medical problem. However, proving these criteria can be difficult. Fortunately, thanks to a new law that took effect on January 1st, a personal injury lawyer can use cost estimates that the hospital is required to post on its website. For example, a hospital charged $3,400 for each of the four CT scans performed, but its site says that the test should only cost $675, so this saved our client a large amount of money. The attorney can also research what other local hospitals charge for the same services. Further, the total medical bill cannot exceed more than 50% of all amounts received by the injured person. For example, if the victim receives the negligent driver's total insurance policy of $30,000 and the hospital bill is $20,000, it must reduce the amount below $15,000. However, that is still an enormous amount, so the cap is often ineffective at making sure the patient is fairly compensated. In addition, the hospital is required to bill the patient's health insurance company, Medicare, or Medicaid plans within (1) the date on any applicable contract or (2) at the latest, by the first day of the 11th month after the injury. If the hospital partially collects on the patient's health insurance policy, it is barred from further payment from the patient. A new law will prevent surprise bills.

How do you know if a hospital lien was filed?

Further, the lien must be filed before the patient deposits the check that they receive from their attorney. The hospital is not required to write or call the patient or their lawyer. But the minute the lien is filed, all parties have automatic notice. They can be held legally accountable if they do not pay the hospital. In other words, you can not claim ignorance as an excuse for nonpayment. Therefore, a careful last-minute search is necessary. Here is a list of all the county clerks in Texas to contact to verify filing. Some courts have held that even if the person's name is misspelled or information is missing, the lien is still valid, so check other spellings if it does not appear the first time.

Can only the first hospital file a lien?

No, a lien can also be filed by providers including the
  • ambulance company in smaller counties with populations less than 800,000;
  • emergency room physicians if the reasonable cost of the services is less than $1,000; and
  • if the victim is transferred to another hospital, the lien also protects the second facility.

Are all insurance policies covered?

No, the lien does not attach to the victim's own insurance policies including personal injury protection and uninsured/underinsured motorists benefits. In other words, if the other driver who causes the collision did not have a valid liability policy, did not have enough insurance coverage, or the patient was paid by a benefit available under his own auto policy or by workers compensation, the hospital cannot assert the lien.

How can the hospital lien be removed or reduced?

It is usually necessary to have a personal injury attorney resolve this expensive issue. That is because until the lien is released, insurance companies will insist that the name of the hospital appear on the settlement check so it gets paid in full.

The governor's final day to sign or veto bills passed by the state legislature was Sunday. Fortunately, the right of Texans to access the courts and recover damages was not adversely affected. Of the 7,500 bills introduced and 1,400 passed, here are several that affect the car and truck crash cases we have specialized in for almost 40 years at Berenson Injury Law. HB 1693 AFFIDAVITS TO PROVE MEDICAL RECORDS AND BILLS The plaintiff must file his medical records and bills with affidavits proving that the service was reasonably priced and necessary and itemize how much of the bill was paid and how much is due. The new law accelerates the filing deadlines by requiring that affidavits be filed 90 or 120 days after the defendant's answer is filed/experts deadline. SB 2342 EXPEDITED ACTIONS and JURY PANELs - Effective on 9/1/20 A new procedure where cases requesting damages of less than $100,000 can be expedited applies to cases with requested damages up to $250,000 and the limits of county courts at law are increased to that amount. The limit for justice of the peace courts doubles to $20,000. Six-person juries used in county courts at law will expand to 12 people. Effective January 1. SB 891 NEW WAY TO SERVE DEFENDANTS VIA FACEBOOK AND STATE WEBSITE and NEW COURTS A defendant can be notified on social media or by publication on a website operated by the state for certain cases (none involving personal injury). Further, certain counties will be granted new district and county courts and judges get pay raises. HB 2929 HOSPITAL LIENS - Effective on June 10, 2019 The Texas Property Code regulates how hospitals can secure payment by filing a lien even if the patient was only admitted to the emergency room. The amount the hospital can recover is capped at 50% of the total recovery and the protection in Civil Practices & Remedies Code Section 146.003 cannot be overridden. Became effective June 10th. HB 259 NAMED DRIVER POLICIES Some auto liability companies have sold "junk policies" which excluded many drivers from coverage. This law prevents these policies from being sold. HB 1631 RED LIGHT CAMERAS This controversial issue and the Supreme Court case which had just held that they were legal may increase the number of intersection collisions. These new laws become effective on September 1st unless otherwise noted.

The following bills did not pass:

HB 649 AUTO LIMITS DISCLOSURE Would have permitted a claimant to learn if the at-fault driver had liability insurance and how much his policy limit was. HB 3832 / SB 1215 MEDICAL BILLS NON-PAYMENT Would have required the court to punish the plaintiff for not having his medical bills paid by his health insurance company, even if there was a valid reason that did not happen. HB 1739 UNINSURED/UNDERINSURED LAWSUITS Would have removed the requirement that an insured driver have to first obtain a judgment against the responsible driver before he could file for benefits under his UM/UIM policy. HB 1348 AUTO REPAIRS Would have required car repair shops to use quality parts and also permit policyholders to pick their own repair shop. HB 2374 "SWOOP AND SETTLE" Would have stopped auto liability companies from pressuring injured people to release their claims immediately after the collision. Thanks to the Texas Trial Lawyers Association for this analysis. Related content: New laws that made Texas roads safer this year  
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