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Hospital Liens in Tennessee Injury Cases


Let’s say that you are injured in an accident.  You end up in the hospital for a medical procedure. You may have insurance but if you don’t, or if you have it and there is a large deductible or significant out of pocket expenses, you may be wondering how you will pay that debt.

The Hospital Lien

When you have a bill after leaving the hospital, the hospital has the ability to file a lien against any lawsuit you bring related to the accident, in which case, they will generally wait until (and if) you get proceeds from a settlement or jury verdict.

But the bad news is that if you do get either of those (verdict or settlement), some of that money will have to go to the hospital, to pay that unpaid balance/lien.

A hospital must file a lien within 120 days of your being discharged from the hospital. You will receive a copy of the lien, so you should know whether one exists or not.

Insurance and the Hospital

Somewhat unfairly, the law does not require that hospitals submit your bill to your insurance, even if you have it. They can just opt to file the lien, for the entirety of the balance (although the contract between the hospital and the insurance company may require that they submit to insurance, the actual law in Tennessee does not).

If the hospital does not bill insurance, it takes its chances on recovering something for the treatment it provided based on whether you recover in the case.

Limits on Liens

There are some limitations on hospital liens, other than the time limit to file them.

You don’t have to worry about your entire settlement or verdict being eaten up by a lien.  By law, the lien can be no more than 1/3 of your settlements or verdict. And no, the hospital has no say in how much you settle for, and you don’t need their permission or approval to settle.

Liens can only be for “necessary and reasonable” charges, and as you can imagine, there is much litigation over what that means.

Dealing With Liens

You should know about your lien 120 days after you are discharged.  Your lawyer should also search the county clerk’s offices to ensure whether the hospital has filed the lien as required by statute.

In many cases, you may not have to pay the entirety of the lien. Sometimes, your attorney can negotiate the lien down, especially if your verdict or settlement falls short of fully compensating you for your damages.

Call the Knoxville personal injury attorneys at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, today for help managing your bills and expenses after an accident.



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