How To Find Out If You Have a Medical Lien Filed Against you?

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how to find out if you have a medical lien

Unfortunately, you can’t get medical treatment for free. The government, the state, or even your insurance has the right to claim the money from your personal injury settlement. 

Why? Two words – a medical lien.

Let’s say you’ve been in a car accident and filed a lawsuit to pay for your hospital bills. It might be wise to learn how to find out if you have a medical lien filed against you as your personal injury settlement money might not belong only to you

The claims process can be stressful, especially when you have no idea if you’re even going to win your case. On top of that, you’ve got your financial state to worry about. Fortunately, we can help put your mind at ease as there are things you can do. 

Let’s take a look at what a medical lien is, how to find out if you have a medical filed against you, and ultimately, what to do about it.

Medical lien and the process of subrogation in a nutshell

In short, a medical lien is a request for your personal injury money from your healthcare provider. In most cases, medical liens are a way for a hospital or a doctor to recoup the money for the treatment of patients who don’t have health insurance. 

However, even if you do have health insurance, your settlement money can be claimed by your health insurance provider. 

How?

Through a process of subrogation.

Subrogation is a right that allows insurance companies to seek repayment from your personal injury settlement. The strength and the extent of this claim might be different depending on your insurance company.

In some states such as Arizona or Kansas, subrogation clauses are not allowed as a part of insurance policies. Make sure to check the laws in your state to see if the insurance company has the right to claim your insurance policy.

What types of liens are out there?

Before we answer the question of how to find out if you have a medical lien filed, do note there are a few different types of liens. They mostly depend on who paid for your medical care, with the three most common types of liens being:

Hospital/Medical provider liens

In certain states, it’s common practice to file liens in case the patient doesn’t have health insurance. Liens are not put on patients, per se. Rather, medical providers attach liens to the injury claim.

The lien exists only to ensure that the hospital that treated you gets reimbursed for the services that they provided. 

While that sounds scary at first, it means that the lien won’t affect your credit or your personal rating since it’s attached to the injury claim. Additionally, liens can’t be attached to assets, so you have an option even if you don’t receive any settlement money.

Depending on the provider, some might ask you to sign a lien letter stating that you’re consenting to give the hospital the lien against your settlement to pay for your medical bills.

A lien won’t be enforceable if it doesn’t follow the requirements of the hospital lien statutes. For instance, a lien must include your proper name and address, name and address of the hospital as well as dates on which the hospital provided you with medical services. If any of these are missing, the medical provider won’t be able to enforce a lien.

Government liens

Depending on the circumstances, if the government paid for any part of your medical care, they have the right to get a piece of the action back in case you file a personal injury claim against a different party. 

Based on the type of program, different government agencies like Medicare have different rights regarding your settlement money. Some have the legal footing to recover a part of the proceedings.

Workers’ compensation liens

To compensate injured workers, there is the aptly titled workers’ compensation law. If you get injured in the workplace, you can collect money under the workers’ compensation policy to cover your medical costs.To avoid windfall and stop you from profiting from your injuries, you can’t get your workers’ compensation while also raking in the settlement money from suing a third party. According to the law, your insurer can register a claim against your personal injury action and get reimbursed out of the proceedings. Now that you know how liens work, it’s time to learn how to find out if you have a medical lien.

Looking up a lien is simple

If you have a sneaking suspicion that a medical provider that treated you has placed a lien on your personal injury claim, you can find out the status in a few easy steps:

1. Go to your County Clerk’s website
2. Find the online search section
3. Enter your last name and the name of the hospital into the search box
4. If the information isn’t available, check if your county has any details regarding internet searches for liens. For instance, Shelby County, Tennessee, allows you to look for hospital liens through Circuit Court’s online case search tool.

If you can’t find any info online, you can look for it in person. Since hospital liens are filed in the county where the hospital is located and where you reside, you can find copies of any liens filed in your county by going to your county’s Circuit Court.

That’s basically how to find out if you have a medical lien filed against you. If you do, then it’s time to get into gear.

Negotiating a medical lien

A lien can take a lot out of your injury settlement. Luckily, you have options so it’s possible to negotiate the terms with the lien holder. This applies in two cases:

1. If you end up losing the claim
2. If the terms are unfavorable

If you lose the motion, you’ll still be responsible for paying your healthcare expenses. If you have no money to cover the expenses, the lien holder will need to take you to court or collections. 

Unfavorable terms are also a reason to consider negotiating since in some cases, a medical provider might charge a patient more for a particular treatment than they would charge an insurance company.

However, most medical lienholders want to recover just a portion of the money in a reasonable time. Taking the patient to court or the collections takes a lot of time, and ultimately, they might even get less money than they originally intended

Because of that, they will most likely be open to negotiations

The right time to get help with a medical lien

Hopefully, this explains how to find out if you have a medical lien in your name. What you do with that information makes all the difference in whether you’ll end up paying more or if you’ll be a part of a costly litigation process in the future.

Medical liens can be a tough cookie to crack without an attorney at your side. Even if you’re aware that a lien can be negotiated, chances are, you might not know which steps you should take. 

By hiring an experienced attorney, you position yourself to get the best terms possible. If you lose the case, your attorney can help you get a payment plan so you can pay off your medical expenses over a specified period of time.