Let’s say you are involved in a car accident in Dallas and are taken to Parkland Hospital. You will be seen in the emergency room and possibly have x-rays or even CT scans performed. Then, the hospital will generate a bill for the services rendered. The hospital may then file a lien at the Dallas County Clerk’s office where it will stay until it is paid. If you intend on making a claim against the other driver’s insurance company for your injuries, the hospital lien will have to be satisfied from your settlement proceeds before you are entitled to receive any money for yourself.
As you can see, this can pose a significant problem in getting your case settled. That bill may be upwards $5,000 or more even without severe or acute injuries. So, what’s the harm? The harm is that hospital can end up owning a part of your car accident claim.
A hospital can even enforce a lien for the emergency room physician’s bill. And even more, the ambulance service can also file a lien in certain counties depending on the county’s population. Luckily, Dallas and Fort Worth are located in counties that do not qualify for ambulance liens.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you are faced with the decision of having to visit a hospital after a car accident:
Do Not Take an Ambulance Unless it is Necessary
You are allowed to refuse ambulance transport just like you are allowed to refuse any other medical service. The paramedics might tell you that you are required to go by ambulance. And depending on your condition, you might need to go by ambulance. But just keep in mind that the ambulance may not bill for their services unless they actually transport you. So, you can see that there is a financial incentive to get you to use their services. This is especially true when dealing with private ambulance services, like MedStar, who charge upwards of $100 per mile. Likewise, you can probably count on these private ambulance services being very persistent in having you transported.
I once had a client who broke her arm in an accident. The ambulance wanted to transport her to the emergency room which was literally located right around the corner from the accident scene. Actually, you could even see the hospital from the location where the accident occurred. Naturally, she refused ambulance transport and simply had her friend take her to the hospital.
Of course, an ambulance may be necessary in some situations and you need to make that decision based on the seriousness of your condition at the accident scene. But know that you may refuse ambulance transport.
Do Not Give Out Your Auto Insurance Information
Once you get to the hospital, give them your health insurance card. DO NOT give them any of the auto insurance information: This goes for your auto insurance as well as the other driver’s insurance. The hospital will even say that your health insurance will not cover services resulting from car accidents. That is a complete falsehood. By law, the hospital cannot refuse to bill your health insurance.
The reason the hospital wants your auto insurance information is to collect your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits. This way, the hospital collects more on their bill than what they would collect from your health insurance. But if you permit the hospital to bill your PIP, you are giving away money that you would be entitled to collect for yourself if you decide to pursue a personal injury claim. When you give the hospital or any other other medical provider the auto insurance information, you are giving away the “keys to the vault.”
If the hospital asks for your auto insurance, just politely refuse and insist that they bill your health insurance. If you do not have health insurance or prefer not to use it, just tell the hospital to bill you on a “self-pay” basis. They cannot refuse to give you treatment and you are not required to give them any auto insurance information.
Don’t even give the hospital the police report information. Some hospitals are starting to ask for the report number and other accident information in order to obtain a copy of the police report. That is because the hospital wants to get the auto insurance information from the report.
Wait 72 Hours, If You Can
If you can wait 72 hours before going to the hospital, then wait. A valid hospital lien can only be filed if the patient seeks treatment within 72 hours after the accident. Of course, I do not advocate anyone compromising their health by waiting to seek necessary medical treatment. But not every accident justifies an expensive visit to the emergency room. You just have to make that decision for yourself depending on the circumstances and severity of your injuries.
Go to a Minor Emergency Clinic Instead
If you feel like you have to get emergency treatment, go to a minor emergency clinic. Why? Because these clinics do not qualify as hospitals for purposes of the hospital lien statute. Likewise, they cannot file a hospital lien. At the same time, do not give these clinics your auto insurance information either. Use your health insurance or just have them bill your directly.
Call an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
But most importantly, CALL A LAWYER. Only an experienced personal injury attorney knows how to protect your rights and preserve your insurance claim for your direct benefit.