Hospital Liens In Texas And Insurance

July 14, 2010

What if someone in Fort Worth, Arlington, Mansfield, Mesquite, Garland, Irving, Grand Prairie, Dallas, or anywhere else in Texas, is involved in an accident and goes to the hospital for treatment? Are there any special laws that apply?
The answer is yes. It depends on the circumstances, but often times, what is called a "hospital lien" comes into play. If this hospital lien is not properly dealt with it could cost a lot of money and heartache.
Texas public policy strongly supports hospital liens, and it is important to understand that these liens are not just applicable to hospitals; they may also operate for the benefit of EMS providers and doctors at teaching hospitals whose bills are not already included in the bill. The rights of hospitals and certain other medical providers to be paid from settlement proceeds or a judgment begins with the Hospital Lien Statute. This is found in the Texas Property Code, Chapter 55. It says, in relevent part, that a lien attaches to "any cause of action, judgment, or settlement" received as a result of an accident for which the person was admitted to a hospital within 72 hours of the injury, as well as any hospital to which the injured person is subsequently transferred for the same injuries. This is found in Texas Property Code, Section 55.002. These hopital liens must be filed prior to settlement in order to be valid, and hospital liens are limited to "reasonable and regular" charges within the first 100 days following the injury. Even the attorney representing the injured person may have to wrestle with the hospital for first priority, as seen in the Texas Supreme Court case styled, Bashara v. Baptist Memorial Hospital System, decided in 1985.
The Dallas Court of Appeals in 1979, in the case styled, Baylor University Medical Center v. Travelers, said that the intent of the Hospital Lien statute was to save lives, by "...inducing hospitals to receive a patient, injured by the negligence of others, by giving the hospital a lien on the claims, suit or settlement of the patient."
An important exception to the hospital lien statute is stated in the case, Members Mutual Insurance Company v. Hermann Hospital, decided in 1984, by the Texas Supreme Court. It says that a hospital lien does not attach to uninsured/underinsured motorists benefits. The reasoning is that the statute is to apply to settlements recovered from third parties and not to underinsured/uninsured benefits.
Another situation that the hospital lien statute does not apply to is a wrongful death case. Atleast that was the decision by the Fort Worth Court of Appeals in the case styled, Tarrant County Hospital District v. Jones, decided in 1984.
Rather than getting some relief by settling a case with the person who caused injuries in an accident, the end result could find the injured person being sued by the hospital if the hospital lien statute applies and is not properly handled.