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An In-Depth Guide to Medical Liens

You’d be surprised to learn that medical liens are fairly common. A lien is a demand for repayment that may be placed against your personal injury case. If you’re the victim and have filed a lawsuit to recover the cost of medical bills, your medical providers may be able to file a lien against your settlement proceeds.

So, what exactly is a lien?
There are several types; hospital liens, physicians liens, ambulance companies can even file liens… To put it simply, liens ensure doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers get paid for their services. These liens are similar to other types of liens in that they secure payment of a debt or obligation. An injury caused by a third party that requires treatment is subject to a medical lien if the provider doesn’t get paid for their services at the time of treatment. This happens any time a third party causes injury and medical bills and does not pay right away.
Here are several major types of liens you need to watch for:

Medical Provider and Hospital Liens
In some cases, hospitals are entitled to file a lien for repayment. Most often, this is conducted through a letter that you sign — stating you submit to a lien against your settlement, or because a statute in Oklahoma law allows a lien to be filed for their services.

From there, the hospital must follow several steps:

The lien must be filed in the county clerk’s office in the county where the hospital is located, and must be filed prior to payment of any money to the injured person. The lien requires the amount claimed, name and address of the hospital, name and address of the injured person, the date of the wreck of injury, and name of the liable party.

The hospital then must mail, by registered or certified mail, a copy of the notice to you and the person liable for causing your injuries. If the hospital doesn’t follow these two steps, their lien may not be enforceable.

Worker’s Compensation Liens
If you’ve been injured in a work-related accident, a lien may be issued if your medical bills and lost wages have been paid through your state’s fund. This lien includes the amount that worker’s compensation paid for your case.

Health Insurer Liens
A health insurer lien, which is contractual, comes from your health insurance policy. So, if your lawyer settles your cause, they can’t disburse any money to you until the health insurer has been reimbursed first.

Government Liens
If the government paid for any portion of your treatment, they have a right to get reimbursed if you recover money from the other party. Some programs like Medicare and Medicaid have different rights when it comes to liens, so it’s best to consult your lawyer.

Here’s a quick overview:
Medicare: This lien derives from federal law and is automatic. If your lawyer settles the case, money can’t be dispersed until Medicare is reimbursed out of the settlement fund.
Medicaid: If you receive health insurance through a state agency
If you are receiving health insurance benefits through a state agency, that is most likely a Medicaid claim. Federal and state law gives the state agency the same automatic lien on your case as Medicare has.

These government liens can have super priority, meaning they have much better protection, for the government, to get paid back.  Mishandling these liens can have serious implications.

What Happens If You Ignore the Lien?
If there’s one thing you don’t want to do — it’s ignore a lien. You and your lawyer could get sued and consider your rights to future health insurance or benefits jeopardized. In some cases, ignoring a lien may even result in a criminal offense.

So, conclusion? Don’t do it. Trust us, calling a lawyer and navigating the process correctly is the wisest way to receive the best return.

Don’t Panic, Here’s What You Need to Remember.
Clients will call, upset because a hospital or doctor has filed a lien. Most often, this fear stems from the belief that the lien attaches to their property (like a home mortgage) and ruins their credit. Something to keep in mind is the lien only attaches to the proceeds of the settlement. It doesn’t attach to homes, cars, or other property. These liens don’t affect your credit. It simply is the amount owed that will come out of funds paid by the liable party.

This is a complicated nuisance to personal injury law. This is why it’s important to hire a knowledgeable and experienced attorney to walk you through the process. Most often, attorneys can even find ways to reduce or eliminate the lien.
So before you ignore it, give EHM a call. We’re always here for you when you (or someone else) wants to get out of line.

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Ewbank, Hennigh & McVay Law Firm | 580-234-4334
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