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Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP

Understanding Hospital Liens in a Long Island Auto Accident Case

When someone is injured in a car accident, medical expenses can be significant. Health insurance often does not cover the medical expenses, and in a lot of cases, hospitals will not bill health insurance. Instead, they may place a lien on the injured person’s auto claim. This can be confusing for an injured victim. The common refrain is, “I paid my health insurance premiums, and the accident was not my fault, so why should I have to pay these expenses?” An experienced Long Island auto accident lawyer can help make sense of this issue.

What is a Healthcare Lien?

Hospitals often provide emergency care for injured motorists without knowing about health insurance. In fact, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) requires that hospital emergency rooms stabilize and treat patients regardless of whether they can pay. Many times, injury victims may not have health insurance, or their insurance is not accepted by the hospital where they are taken. In many cases, the contracted payment is minimal.

Therefore, the hospital may place a lien on the auto insurance claim. This just means that instead of trying to be paid through a health insurance policy, the hospital is seeking payment from auto insurance, usually the at-fault party’s policy.

How Does a Hospital Assert a Lien?

In New York, the hospital must provide written notice to the at-fault party and/or that person’s insurance company by sending the notice via registered or certified mail. At a minimum, the notice must include the following:

  • Name and address of the injured person who was treated
  • Date of the accident
  • Name and location of the hospital
  • Name of the person (or legal entity) alleged to be liable to the injured party for the injuries

How are Liens Paid?

The injured person and his or her accident attorney may have to negotiate with the at-fault negligent driver’s insurance company to obtain sufficient compensation to cover all the liens, as well as enough to still compensate the injured person for the pain and suffering incurred. This can be a lengthy process.

In some cases, negotiations are not successful, and the injured person must file suit against the negligent driver in order to obtain a court judgment forcing that person (and his or her insurance company) to pay. Once a verdict or settlement is obtained, the injured person’s attorney can often negotiate with the hospital in order to get the liens reduced as part of a compromise to resolve the balance.

What Other Types of Liens may Exist?

Hospitals are not the only entities that can assert a right to be paid from a personal injury settlement or verdict. When private health insurance companies pay for care following an auto accident, they too have a right to be reimbursed. Likewise, Medicaid and Medicare routinely assert liens for reimbursement when they pay for the cost of care following a crash.

Why Hire a Long Island Personal Injury Lawyer to Help With Liens?

As should be clear by now, there is a lot more to resolving an auto insurance claim than proving who is at fault. Resolving liens can be one of the hardest and most time-consuming parts of the case. Without an experienced Long Island auto accident lawyer, you could find yourself settling for what appears like a large amount of money, only to be forced to turn over the entire amount to hospitals and health insurance companies.

If you are injured in a motor vehicle collision on Long Island, contact the Law Offices of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP for your free consultation by calling ((866) 895-0420.

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