Posted in Blog on June 4, 2019
The claimant in a personal injury first seeks medical treatment. Let us assume they do not have health insurance. Next thing he or she knows, a notice of intent to file a hospital lien arrives in the mailbox. This letter has a local attorney’s signature. The return address reads as a big law office or a huge collections company.
This is standard procedure for most every hospital in Georgia. The medical facility knows that without health insurance the chances of collecting from the patient are slim. This way the hospital ensures they receive their funds when the patient’s personal injury case settles.
The lien has no affect on the patient’s personal or business credit rating. And the law states clearly that the lien is not evidence of the patient’s failure to pay a debt. The lien is not actually a debt. A lien attaches to the claim itself, not to the person with the injury claim.
The hospital does not attach the lien to a house like the Internal Revenue Service with tax liens. Instead, the lien protects the hospital’s reimbursement interests with the insurance company. Liens apply to the insurance company payouts from the driver at fault, and to the proceeds from uninsured motorist policies.
A lien is a court document. A medical lien notifies the court that a debt exists with a medical facility. Any settlement or court award pays off the medical debt. The notice of intent, filed 15 days before the lien, simply notifies the patient that the hospital intends to file the medical lien. The patient’s attorney notes this court action in their personal injury file.
In addition, the lawyer checks that the medical facility follows appropriate laws and all the strict protocols to file the lien. Improper protocols provide an excellent opportunity to legally argue to reduce the medical lien total amount.
Any medical practice employing a medical doctor (MD) can legally place liens upon an injury claim in Georgia. Chiropractors are not MDs, so they cannot attach a medical lien to a personal injury claim.
Medical liens can attach for various types of treatment.
These liens apply only for individuals who carry no health insurance. For those with health insurance, the medical facility simply processes the insurance payment. If they bypass this step, the patient immediately informs the facility in writing to confirm their health insurance information.
Hospital charges for the same medical procedures the patient received could compare to Medicare, Tricare, Blue Cross, and uninsured patients. This evidence of what is a reasonable medical bill potentially argues for reduced medical liens.
Doctors holding liens do not pay their fair share of the injured person’s attorney’s fees to get the verdict. However, Georgia medical providers cannot sue injured victims directly, unless they agree to a settlement, ignoring the lien. Then, the doctor sues for the actual settlement proceeds.
Approaching the physicians early, well before a settlement or trial, to negotiate a deal for reduced medical expenses is often an excellent strategy. The lawyer can leverage the threat to simply not pursue the personal injury claim, which eliminates any possibility for financial recovery for the medical facility.
Insurance companies seldom settle without writing a check directly to the hospital for the lien amount, even with a written release. Generally, with a sizable lien in place, settling a case without an attorney is almost impossible. Fighting to reduce or defeat these medical liens, preserves and maximizes client settlement and recovery award amounts.