If you are involved in an accident and suffer injuries that require medical care, how will your medical bills be paid? For most North Carolinians who have health insurance, there is an assumption that the hospital will submit your bills to your insurance company, and you will only have to pay the amount that is not covered by your insurance plan. However, this is not always what happens.
In fact, in certain cases where a person has a significant medical bill from an accident, a hospital lien may be filed against any damages you recover in a personal injury civil action. Although the law does allow for liens in certain circumstances, North Carolina lien law is complicated. So it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Charlotte to discuss whether it is possible to reduce the lien or, in some cases, eliminate it altogether.
What Is a Hospital Lien?
In order to understand how a hospital lien can impact your personal injury case, it is important to know what a “lien” is. Cornell University Legal Information Institute (LII) defines a lien as “a security interest or legal right acquired in one’s property by a creditor. A lien generally stays in effect until the underlying obligation to the creditor is satisfied.”
In basic terms, if you owe someone money (a creditor) and you do not repay it, that creditor can put a lien against you (or against your personal injury case, for example). A hospital lien may be used in cases where an injured person owes the hospital money, and because the hospital has not been paid, it files a lien.
Learning More About Hospital Liens
Under North Carolina law, entities such as hospitals can file liens upon a person’s recovery in a personal injury settlement or lawsuit in order to be repaid for “sums due for medical attention.” The law specifically states that the lien can be “in favor of any person, corporation, State entity, municipal corporation, or county” to whom the plaintiff owes money for medical bills.
Hospital liens can be filed to cover bills for a wide range of services, including:
- Ambulance services
- Physician services
- Nurse services
- Dental services
- Hospital attention
- Hospital services
- Drugs or medication
- Medical supplies
Instead of submitting your hospital bills to your insurer, a health care provider can file a lien against any damages or settlement you might secure in a personal injury claim. In other words, the lien can significantly reduce your compensation from any personal injury claim.
When Can a Hospital File a Lien?
There are situations in which a hospital can put a lien on a personal injury claimant’s case, including instances such as:
- You suffered an injury and required medical care but did not have insurance.
- You suffered an injury and required medical care, but your insurance company did not pay a portion of the bill, and you have not paid the remaining amount.
- The hospital elects not to file with your health insurance company and, instead, seeks payment out of your personal injury settlement or verdict.
To be clear, when a hospital files a lien directly on the personal injury claimant’s case — even when the claimant has valid insurance — that hospital may be seeking the full retail cost of the hospital bill to be paid out of the plaintiff’s settlement, rather than the amount that the insurance company would have paid.
Seek Help from an Experienced North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer
If you are facing a hospital lien, you may still be wondering why the hospital did not bill your insurance company for the payment owed. You need to speak with a dedicated North Carolina personal injury lawyer to protect your rights.
Contact a personal injury lawyer at Warren & Kallianos PLLC, today to learn more about how we can assist you with hospital liens in personal injury cases. Depending upon the specific facts of your case, we may be able to get the amount of the lien reduced, or we may be able to demonstrate that the lien is invalid. Call or fill out our online form to schedule a free case consultation now.