What is a Hospital Lien Under Georgia Law?

June 10, 2024

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), chiropractic practices, 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 but, for whatever reason, most people simply refer to these liens as “hospital liens.” Note that the statute does not offer protection to emergency medical response (EMS).

In 2023, there was a dramatic change to the law. O.C.G.A. §  44-14-471(c) provides “[n]o filing of a claim or lien under this part shall be enforceable unless the person, firm, hospital authority, or corporation operating a hospital, nursing home, physician practice, chiropractic practice, or traumatic burn care medical practice filing such claim or lien first submitted a claim to each health insurer of the injured person, if such injured person has health insurance coverage, and had such claim rejected.” 

So what exactly does this change mean for the patient? It means that for patients who have health insurance coverage, the medical care provider is required to file under the patient’s health insurance plan before seeking to enforce a lien against the patient’s personal injury settlement.  This change is monumental and could impact, to the tune of thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars, what the client nets from a personal injury settlement.  Accordingly, a patient would be well advised to require the provider comply with this improvement in Georgia law by insisting his/her health insurance is billed for the medical services rendered.  

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 and certified mail or statutory overnight delivery, return receipt requested. 
  • If the statement is filed by a hospital, nursing home, or provider of traumatic burn care medical practice, then the statement shall be filed within 75 days after the person has been discharged from the facility
  • If the statement is filed by a physician practice or chiropractic practice, then the statement shall be filed within 90 days after the person first sought treatment from the physician practice or chiropractic practice for the injury.

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.

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.

Notes: Our team gathers information about accidents in Georgia from various external sources, including news reports, police reports, social media, and eyewitness accounts. The details of this specific incident have not been independently verified by our staff. If you find any inaccuracies in our post, please get in touch with Horst Shewmaker, LLC, and we will promptly correct or remove the content as needed.

Disclaimer: This post is not a business solicitation. It’s important to note that the information provided does not constitute legal advice or establish an attorney-client relationship. Legal outcomes vary depending on specific circumstances. For personalized legal assistance, please contact Horst Shewmaker, LLC directly. The featured image in this post is not from the actual accident scene.