What is a Hospital Lien Under Georgia Law?

February 6, 2020

It’s scary to get a certified letter from a law firm or collections company. This is especially true when the letter says you’re now “on notice of intent to file a hospital lien.” Companies like Aspirion Health Resources send these letters to patients that have been treated at Northside Hospitals. This is one of many examples; there are numerous other companies and hospitals utilizing Georgia’s Hospital Lien Statute. HS lawyers know how to handle these big companies and their lawyers.

Who can file a hospital lien?

Under Georgia Law, according to O.C.G.A. § 44-14-470(b), hospitals, nursing homes, physician practices, and traumatic burn care practices may assert a lien for the reasonable charges for treatment of an injured person. What that means is a hospital lien applies to more than treatment at hospitals. Note that the statute does not offer protection to emergency medical response (EMS).

What is a hospital lien?

First, a hospital lien is not a lien against your home. A hospital lien only attaches to the underlying cause of action. This means the lien is only against your claim arising out of a car accident, trucking accident, slip and fall accident, or dog bite case.

If a hospital lien is not against your home or individual assets, why does it matter?

It matters because it can impact your net recovery from an injury claim. The hospital lien is not only sent to you, it is also sent to insurance companies that may be responsible for paying your damages. Insurance companies have a legal obligation to pay hospital liens before paying you.

Also, you may have health insurance. If you do, the hospital should bill your health insurance.

If you receive notice of a hospital lien, it is important to hire an injury law firm that has experience dealing with hospital liens. HS lawyers may be able to show that the lien was not filed correctly or is otherwise invalid.

One of the ways lawyers at HS Law attack hospital liens is to make sure the lien was filed correctly.

How to determine if the hospital lien was filed correctly?

Georgia law provides that the entity filling the lien must follow proper guidelines, including:

  • Send notice to the patient and any other interested parties at least 15 days prior to filing.
  • The notice must include that the lien is not against the patient or any property of the patient.
  • The notice must state that the lien is not evidence of the patient’s failure to pay a debt.
  • The notice must be sent via first class mail and have certified mail return receipt delivery.
  • The statement, if regarding a hospital, nursing home, or traumatic burn center, must be filed within 75 days after the patient has been released.
  • A physicians’ practice statement must be filed within 90 days after the patient first sought treatment.

As you can tell, there are quite a few rules the firm filing the lien must follow. If they do not strictly comply with the statute, your HS lawyer will challenge the lien’s validity. If the lien is not valid, we are in a much stronger place to negotiate your hospital or physician’s bill at time of settlement.

What if my hospital bill was much higher than it should have been?

Great question. If the hospital lien follows the statute but the bill is extremely high, we may file an “interpleader action”. This means a judge can decide a fair allocation of settlement proceeds. For example, let’s say you have $100,000 medical coverage. Your medical bills are $200,000. If the final settlement for your car accident is $500,000, the lien holder would get $100,000 of the settlement. However, by filing an “interpleader action” the judge might reduce the medical bills to $100,000. In this case the lien holder would receive exactly $0 of your settlement money.

This is a great strategy especially if the lien holder will not negotiate in good faith.

What are other types of liens associated with my medical bills?

In addition to hospital liens, if you have been injured in an accident, you may also receive other types of liens. For example, The Rawlings Group often sends “subrogation letters” to people who have used their health insurance. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) sends subrogation letters to people who have used Medicare or Medicaid. Tricare sends subrogation letters to people using their military issued insurance when they have been the victim of negligence.

In each of these situations, you would benefit greatly from having a personal injury attorney to help guide you through the process.

If you have suffered a personal injury and received any of these letters, call the lawyers at HS Law immediately at 404-400-1175. Do not fight these massive corporations on your own! They are using their lawyers to pay you as little as possible. Going against seasoned professionals alone could cost you thousands of dollars or more.

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