What is a hospital lien in Alabama?

A hospital lien is a common way for a hospital to protect itself by guaranteeing payment via a former patient’s personal injury settlement. 

Costly hospital bills can be a burden for many families. Medical bills resulting from car accidents, chronic illnesses, and unexpected emergencies can take a toll on a family’s finances. 

When someone arrives in the emergency room, the hospital may not know if the person has insurance. However, the hospital is still obligated to treat the patient. Under Alabama law, the hospital can protect itself by filing a lien.

What is a hospital lien?

It is a special right granted to hospitals and emergency service providers. It enables them to receive payment from any judgments or personal injury settlements of patients. 

view of hospital entrance sign after getting hospital lien

Why did I receive a notice of a lien?

You will likely receive a notice of a hospital lien if you recently received treatment for an injury caused by someone else. 

Whether a dog bite, car accident, or another type of incident, the hospital will file a lien. This lien prevents that person or his insurance carrier from settling your case without paying the hospital’s bill. 

If the responsible party does not pay the claim, the hospital may sue the patient directly.

If you provided your health insurance information, the hospital will likely be required to file a claim with your health insurance provider. 

In that instance, the hospital must withdraw the lien. Although you may have insurance, a few conditions will allow the hospital to skip submitting a claim and seek payment from your settlement or judgment.

What does the lien affect?

An Alabama statute allows hospitals to place an automatic lien on a patient’s personal injury settlement if the hospital treated the patient for those injuries within one week of the initial injury. 

Hospital liens are valid until someone pays the bill. When the patient receives a settlement or the court awards a judgment, hospitals are the first to receive the funds. 

However, the law limits the amount recovered through the lien to the cost of treatment or services provided. The hospital cannot charge additional fees to the lien. 

It is also important to highlight that the hospital cannot make a lien against a person’s land or personal property. Once the hospital receives payment, the plaintiff will receive the remaining funds. The hospital must release the lien within ten days of receiving payment. 

Recovery from an accident due to someone’s negligence is tough enough on its own. When combined with the stresses of medical bills and dealing with insurance companies, the recovery process is even more difficult. 

Navigating the legal process can be a maze of frustration. Don’t settle your claim against the negligent party without making sure you have enough money to cover all your expenses and debts. 

If you need legal help after an injury due to someone’s negligence, please contact the experienced attorneys at the law office of Timberlake & League. We can help.