Medical bills are one of the central claims filed in virtually any Fort Myers personal injury lawsuit. But if you don’t have health insurance (or enough health insurance) while your personal injury claim is pending, you could well find yourself with something called a hospital lien.
As our Southwest Florida personal injury lawyers can explain, a hospital lien – sometimes called a medical lien – is basically when a healthcare provider is granted payment rights for services rendered to a patient with a pending personal injury case. This seems fair enough: You get treatment at the hospital after a car accident, file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, and providers are ultimately paid from the amount collected in that case. (You likely even signed discharge paperwork granting them permission to send in a claim against any court-awarded costs to pay medical debts related to your treatment.)
Where it can get a bit dicey is in determinations about how much is “reasonable.” Healthcare providers may have one idea about what’s “reasonable,” and the auto insurer(s) involved may have quite another. It’s a major issue because, in the Sunshine State, hospital liens are often given priority over any and all other recoverable damages – including lost wages, pain, and suffering, etc. That means they may argue that they are first in line when it comes to getting paid.
Who can you trust to advocate for you during these negotiations? Your Fort Myers personal injury lawyer’s at Garvin Injury Law. Not only do we understand what is considered reasonable for services rendered, we know what insurers are likely to agree on and whether the injured party may face challenges in actually collecting that sum. We’re also skilled in negotiating with hospitals and other healthcare providers on this front.
Also worth noting: Florida does it a bit differently than other states. While most other places have a single hospital lien statute, Florida allows each county to enact its own hospital lien statutes. (The state used to have a single health care lien law, but it was deemed unconstitutional in the 2012 Florida Supreme Court ruling in Shands Teaching Hosp. & Clinics, Inc. v. Mercury Ins. Co. of Fla.) What this ultimately means is there can be a big difference between when you might expect in Monroe County or Collier County versus what you might expect in Lee County or Sarasota County. Some counties don’t allow medical liens at all, while some do require they be filed in short order.
A few local rule examples:
- Charlotte County – No right of medical lien filing.
- Collier County – Collier County Ordinance Sec. 234-31 holds that patients must provide the hospital with their notice of intent to claim damages from a third party. If a lawsuit is then filed, the patient needs to provide the hospital with a copy of that complaint (with no apparent deadline). After receiving the patient’s notice of intent to claim damages, the hospital must provide notice of intent to impose a medical lien within 30 days. Healthcare providers are expected to cooperate with the patient by providing the information reasonably necessary to file their claim. This can include bills and medical records, which must be provided at no charge.
- Lee County – Lee County Ordinance Ch. 18-37 and 18-37 holds that medical liens must be perfected within 10 days after patient discharge, with notice mailed to the patient. This is to be considered a notice to any liable party, regardless of whether they receive it or are listed on the claim.
- Monroe County – No right of medical lien filing.
- Sarasota County – No right of medical lien filing.
Of course, local ordinances change all the time – and they don’t always make headlines. Knowing which rules you’re playing by is important. It’s also critically important that you identify all possible medical liens before settling your personal injury case. Because doctors, nurses, and specialists may not be employed directly by the hospital, there’s a good chance you could have numerous medical liens from the same visit. If you don’t identify all of them at the outset, there’s a chance you could end up agreeing to a personal injury case settlement amount that’s not enough to cover your medical liens AND other losses. And it won’t matter if you find out about the liens later. Once you settle a case, that’s it – there are no do-overs. This is another reason why it’s really important to work with a Fort Myers injury lawyer when settling the claim.
If you have questions about the medical liens in your personal injury case, give us a call.
Garvin Injury Law assists clients in the areas of South Florida communities of Fort Myers, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, Cape Coral, Naples, and Key West. Call us at 800.977.7017 for a free consultation.
Amicus Curie Florida Hospital Association, Shands Teaching Hosp. & Clinics, Inc. v. Mercury Ins. Co. of Fla., Florida Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Fort Myers Injury Lawyer Discusses Hospital Bill Lien Reduction Strategies, June 30, 2022, Fort Myers Hospital Lien Lawyer Blog