The days and weeks following a serious car accident can be chaotic and confusing. Your priority is to get medical treatment for your injuries. Fortunately, that's everyone’s first priority. Whether you leave the scene of the crash in a medical helicopter, ambulance, or a loved one’s car, no one should question your ability to pay for transportation or medical treatment. The professionals in the emergency room or urgent care center will ask for insurance information, but treat your injuries regardless of coverage.
While the doctors and nurses won't be concerned about your financial situation, you can be sure hospital administration is interested. Once it learns that you were involved in an accident, it will likely take action to place a lien on any settlement you should receive in the future.
It will do this whether you have insurance or not. Why? It’s a complicated
legal maneuver, but we explain the basics here.
What Is a Lien?
Even if you’ve never heard the term, you’ve probably had liens placed against your property. If you own a car or a house, the bank would have placed a lien on the property until you repay the loan or the mortgage.
A lien is simply the legal right to reimbursement. In the case of a car loan, the bank fronts the money for the purchase in the form of a loan, and retains the right to be reimbursed. Once it's paid back, the bank removes the lien. Medical liens are similar, but instead of fronting money, the medical care provider fronts the services and then retains the right to be paid for the service with a lien.
What Is a Medical Lien Placed Against?
When you've been injured in an accident, there's always a chance that a financial settlement coming. A medical provider knows this and wants to retain the right to get a portion of the settlement as repayment for the services it's rendered.
If there's ultimately no lawsuit or settlement, the medical provider will attempt to be reimbursed through other means.
Who Is Entitled to Place a Medical Lien?
A variety of healthcare providers are entitled to place medical liens, as are insurance providers, including government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.
In Missouri, the following healthcare practitioners can place a lien against a potential injury claim:
- Licensed physician or surgeon
- Licensed podiatrist
- Licensed dentist
- Licensed physical therapist
- Licensed chiropractor
- Licensed optometrist
Hospitals and clinics are also legitimate lien holders.
How Is a Lien Established?
In Missouri, an eligible lienholder must provide written notification that it intends to place a lien. The notification must include the name of the injured, date of the incident, and names of those alleged to be responsible for the accident. The potential lienholder must then send the notification by certified mail to the parties responsible for reimbursement. This may include insurance companies, the injured person, or the person who caused the accident.
Liens Asserted by Insurance Companies
It’s not just medical care providers who want to be reimbursed for services. If treatment was covered by your health insurance company—or by Medicare or Medicaid—and you later receive a settlement from the other driver’s insurance company, your insurer will want its money back. If it placed a lien against your potential recovery—which it most likely did—it will receive a portion of your settlement.
How Will a Settlement be Distributed If There Are Liens Against it?
When an eligible party places a medical lien, it is agreeing to accept whatever the settlement is, whether it pays all the bills or not. When the settlement agreement is reached, all of the lienholders—such as healthcare providers, insurers, and so on—will split the net proceeds of the settlement, after attorney’s fees, 50-50 with the injured party and that satisfies the lien.
For example, if you're awarded $35,000 after attorney fees, you'll split that with the lienholders and each of you will get $17,500.
Have You Been Injured In A Kansas City Area Car Accident?
If you've been injured in a car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.