Just when you thought that fighting the insurance company is a challenge, more and more of my clients find themselves in the grips of the hospital when it comes to settling their personal injury case.
From filing hospital liens, getting “assignments of benefits,” and refusing to file on health insurance, I have noticed that many Dallas area hospitals are finding new and aggressive ways to become beneficiaries of your personal injury case.
There are even attorneys and law firms who have recently started helping hospitals structure their patient intake procedures so that these lawyers can use the information you give the hospital to intercept your personal injury settlement.
Here is What is Happening.
Let’s say you are involved in a car accident. You are injured. You decide to go to the hospital (and maybe you need to go). At this point, a few things are going to happen that can seriously effect your injury claim.
You will be presented with a stack of forms to fill out and sign. If you take the time to read the fine print, one of those forms may ask for “accident information.” You start to fill out the forms not thinking about the ramifications.
These forms will ask for the accident details, the names of the insurance companies, the police report number. You may ask, “What does this information have to to do with my injury.” It has nothing to do with you injury, but is has everything to do with your injury case. The hospital will use this information to notify the auto insurance company to pay them directly.
Another form you may sign includes an “assignment of benefits.” This allows the hospital to get paid directly from your own auto insurance, such as Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits. In fact, these clauses even assign a part of your injury claim to the hospital to cover their charges. Sometimes the hospitals will bury an “assignment of benefits” clause is some other form.
How does this Effect My Injury Case?
If you give the hospital this accident information, they will use it to intrude on your injury claim. Instead of billing your health insurance company, hospitals want to bill your injury claim. Why? Because they will get paid more from your injury claim than your health insurance. However, when the hospital does this, they funnel money away that can be used to compensate you for your injuries.
So, the hospital has an incentive to run up their bill. They may order unnecessary and expensive tests and scans such as lab work, MRI’s and CAT scans. Then, what should only be a $1,000 – $2,000 hospital bill turns into a $10,000 bill that can potentially drain your injury case.
The hospital will then file a hospital lien for that amount and even notify the insurance company of their claim before you even get a chance to make your claim. Why? Because when you gave the hospital all the accident and insurance information, you gave them the “keys to the vault.”
Things you Can Do to Protect Your Case.
First, do not ever give any of the accident or auto insurance information. The hospital will go so far as to say that this information is necessary. They may even say that they cannot treat you unless they get this information. That is an outright lie! An emergency room cannot turn you away because you refuse to give them this information or to fail to give any upfront guarantee of payment. They must treat you. Period!
Second, only give the hospital your health insurance information. Do not give them any other insurance information. Do not give them your auto insurance information nor the other driver’s insurance information. The hospital staff might say that your health insurance will not pay if you were in a car accident. That again is an outright lie!
The reason they are telling you this is because they will get paid more from the auto insurance than the health insurance. But, like I said before, this will take money away from you when you go to make your injury claim against the responsible party’s insurance.
Third, do not sign any forms especially “assignments of benefits” forms. Just cross it out and/or do not sign it. This form is not required for your health insurance to pay and the hospital cannot refuse to treat you if you do not sign.
Why are Hospitals Doing This?
Simple…. It’s a way to make more money. Hospitals have become very aggressive in finding new ways to make money. One of the ways they are making more money now is to get a piece of patient’s personal injury settlements.
Keep the hospital and your injury claim separate! The only information you need to give the hospital is your name, address, telephone number, date of birth and health insurance information. Any other accident or insurance information you give is just going to open the door to the hospital taking your money.