It can be difficult to understand legal terms and liability, especially when it comes to your healthcare. While you focus on getting better, it can be difficult to manage bills and legal paperwork.
At Murphy & Prachthauser, we are good lawyers who help people. Our goal is to provide you with educational information on all of the legal questions you may have, so you feel empowered to make knowledgeable legal decisions. Understanding medical lien’s can be difficult, here are some of the key things you should know.
What Is A Lien?
In general terms, a lien is the right of Person A to have possession of property belonging to Person B until Person B pays a debt to Person A. In the context of a personal injury case, a chiropractor’s lien or a doctor’s lien is the right of a medical provider to take a portion of recovery from a settlement or verdict in a law suit to pay for an injured person’s medical bills.
Should I Sign A Medical Lien?
You should probably not sign a chiropractor’s lien or doctor’s lien unless you have no health or other insurance to cover you, and you closely monitor the billings of the provider.
If a person has health insurance, there is no good reason to sign a lien. Regardless of the circumstances of a person’s injury, their health insurer has contracted with the healthcare provider to pay a certain rate for medical services rendered. Often, that rate is a discounted rate. That discounted rate is a benefit you receive for paying your health care premiums, either directly or as a part of your salary.
Understand Your Hospital Healthcare Rights
Some healthcare providers, upon learning that a patient was injured in an accident, see an opportunity to collect at a rate higher than the discounted rate. However, the hospital may be held liable for tortious interference if the hospital does not directly bill the HMO, knowing that a patient has an HMO, and both the patient and the HMO want the hospital to bill the HMO. Dorr v. Sacred Heart Hosp., 228 Wis.2d 425, 597 N.W.2d 462 (Ct. App. 1999). If a healthcare provider is not submitting bills to the health insurer, the patient does have the right to obtain an itemized bill from the healthcare provider and submit the bill to the healthcare insurer for payment.
Why Would A Healthcare Provider Ask For A Signed Lien?
If a healthcare provider asks a patient to sign a lien, that provider is taking a gamble on the likelihood of the injured person recovering in a settlement or lawsuit against the person who caused the injuries. If an injured person has signed a lien and recovers from the person who caused the injury, the injured person will owe the healthcare provider the full amount for medical bills.
Understanding Liens In Wisconsin Law
Wisconsin Statute § 779.80 pertains to hospital liens, and Wis. Stat. § 895.453 pertains to chiropractor liens.
Wis. Stat. § 779.80 provides that charitable hospitals have a lien for services rendered to any person who has been injured as a result of negligence or other tort. The lien attaches to any recovery a person may obtain in a personal injury lawsuit, regardless of whether it goes to trial. For the lien to be effective, the hospital must notify the court within 60 days after the injured person’s discharge from the hospital. The hospital must also notify the injured person and that person’s insurer within 10 days after filing. This statute does not apply to worker’s compensation injuries.
Note that the hospital lien statute does not authorize a hospital to pursue collection for a patient’s debt directly from the person who caused the injury; it only authorizes the hospital to attach a lien on insurance proceeds due to the patient from the tortfeasor’s insurer. Dorr v. Sacred Heart Hosp., 228 Wis.2d 425, 597 N.W.2d 462 (Ct. App. 1999).
Wis. Stat. § 895.453 provides that a chiropractor may be paid out of attorney’s fees if:
- The patient was injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident
- The chiropractor rendered services because of those injuries
- The attorney was working for the injured person on a contingency fee agreement
- The injured person received a settlement amount that was less than the person’s damages
- Prior to settlement the chiropractor had not been paid for his or her services and provided written notice to the attorney.
This means that money the attorney would have earned now goes to the chiropractor instead. However, this does not apply if the chiropractor was eligible for payment under a health insurance contract, self-injured health plan, or governmental health plan or program.
When in doubt, always ask your attorney before signing any type of lien. Do you have any questions about liens? Let us know in the comments.
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