Lately, I have noticed that hospitals (and other healthcare providers) are becoming much more aggressive in gaining a legal strong-hold in your injury claim after a car accident. With the Texas Hospital Lien statute and the way insurance companies are handling your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits, more and more of your money is being taken away by hospitals looking to increase their profit margin by ordering unnecessary procedures and collecting from your injury claim. But there are some things you can do to protect yourself. If you are injured in a car accident and taken to the emergency room, remember these important “Do’s and Dont’s” in order to protect your claim:
DO NOT give the hospital any auto insurance information. When you go to the hospital, you will be asked to sign a bunch of papers with a lot of fine print. One of those documents will be an “Assignment of Benefits” form. If you give the hospital any of the auto insurance information, then they will use that form to make the insurance companies pay them directly. If the insurance company does this, then there is less money for you to collect. This goes for not only your own auto insurance information, but also the insurance company for the other driver. So, the goal here is to protect all potential sources of recovery. The way to do that is to not give the hospital any of the auto insurance information. If the hospital asks for the information, just tell them your would rather not disclose it would rather go through your health insurance. If you do not have health insurance, then just tell the hospital to bill you directly. Hold your ground no matter how persistent the hospital admissions staff. After all, there is nothing they can do make you disclose this information and they cannot refuse you as a patient.
DO NOT give the hospital any of the police report information. This actually goes hand-in hand with the previous paragraph. If you give the hospital the police report information, then they will try to obtain a copy of the police report. The police report will have all the auto insurance information for all the drivers. Then the hospital has the information necessary to try and collect their bill directly from the insurance companies which will leave less money for your to collect upon settlement of your case. Recent rules, however, have restricted who may obtain personal information from police reports, including insurance information. But why take the chance? The hospital may still request the report and accidentally get the information anyway. The way to prevent this is to NOT give the hospital the police report number.
DO give the hospital your health insurance information. This is what the hospital is trying to avoid. If they are forced to bill your health insurance, then they will collect much less on their bill than if they billed the auto insurance directly. The hospital will go so far as to say that your health insurance will not honor the claim because it is a car accident. That is 100% wrong. Your health insurance will honor the claim and then just seek reimbursement later from any future settlement. But this is a better situation for you because reimbursing the health insurance will be cheaper than paying the hospital the full amount of their bill. This leaves more money for you to pocket in your case. Additionally, if the hospital is forced to submit you bill to your health insurance, then they are not allowed to file a hospital lien in your case. As stated before, if you do not have health insurance, then just tell the hospital to bill you directly. They cannot refuse you as a patient.
DO try and wait to go to the hospital, if you can. If you wait more than 72 hours to go to the hospital, then they cannot file a hospital lien. If at all possible, a hospital lien is something you want to avoid. If you need to seek emergency medical treatment right away, go to a minor emergency center such as CareNow or PrimaCare. Why? Because these facilities are not considered “hospitals” under the hospital lien statute and cannot file a lien. At the same time, do not give the auto insurance information to these clinics either. They will try to tell you that you have to, but you do not. Just give them your health insurance information.
DO hire an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Once you get out of the hospital, contact an attorney right away. If you don’t go to the hospital directly from the accident, contact an attorney and discuss your best options for getting an initial evaluation, You need to know your rights and start taking the steps necessary to protect them. Make no mistake that everyone else, including the ambulance, hospital, doctors and insurance companies, are already preparing to protect themselves at your expense. Therefore, getting legal representation as soon as possible is essential to you properly enforcing your rights and maximizing your recovery.
The thing that you must remember is that your car accident claim belongs to you. So you should make sure you do not give anyone the “key to the vault” or else you run the risk of seriously undermining your potential settlement. An experience car accident lawyer and personal injury attorney will know how to navigate through your claim in the best possible way to avoid the many traps and pitfalls that will hinder your injury settlement.