If you are injured in a car accident, an ambulance will rush you to a hospital emergency service. Once hospitalized, your medical costs can range from $20,000 for a concussion and short hospital stay to $1 million for the first year of spinal cord injury treatment.
If you cannot pay for the treatment, medical liens provide an alternative way for hospitals, doctors, and insurance companies to recover medical costs. By recovering payment from your auto accident litigation, medical liens postpone your medical bills until you are in a financial position to pay them.
Risk to the Medical Service Provider
Whether or not you have insurance coverage, emergency rooms are required to treat you. Some patients may not have the future earnings power to pay a large medical bill. Medical liens provide a way to recover the medical costs.
A downside is that the legal case could take years to settle. Worst-case scenario, the patient's legal case is lost, and the medical expenses cannot be recovered through the litigation.
Either way, the medical service provider spreads its payment risk by charging for medical services at full price under a medical lien. Under this two-tiered pricing system, the price typically paid by an insurance plan or Medicaid is considerably less.
Negotiating a Medical Lien
Since the medical lien price is well above the normal price medical services providers would be paid, you should always consider negotiating a lower medical lien.
If you win your auto litigation, medical liens can take a big chunk of your settlement. An auto accident lawyer will check billing codes, duplicate charges, overcharges, and so on. They will consider whether paying the lien would be a hardship, due to the need for ongoing medical care, rehabilitation, and other considerations.
If you lose the litigation and the fees are not paid through a settlement:
- you could be asked to pay the bill out of pocket at the higher full rate
- a lien could be placed on your personal property, or you could be sued for the debt
- upon your death, the claim for damages could revert to your estate
If the medical lien fails, an exorbitant medical bill may be avoided by negotiating a medical lien amount and terms that protect the patient.
Not all medical service providers use medical liens. An auto accident lawyer will be able to advise you on the different billing options of medical services providers in your region.
Contact a local auto accident lawyer today for more information.