SETTLING A CAR ACCIDENT CASE—WITHOUT A LAWYER! PART 1: LIENS

On average, Florida sees just around 400,000 car accidents each year—or a little over a thousand every single day. Of those, approximately 40% result in serious injuries. Crashes can happen even to the most attentive and careful of drivers; and in the aftermath of an accident, one of the many questions you may find yourself asking is: Do I need a lawyer? It’s definitely possible to settle a car accident case on your own. However, the things you don’t know can be the biggest threats to your case. In this series of articles, we will cover some of these threats and shed some light on the legal processes that occur after an accident.

A medical lien can heavily affect your final settlement amount. The concept of medical liens (essentially a promise that the hospital would be repaid for treatments after the fact) was introduced in the 1930s in hopes that it would incentivize hospitals to treat patients from different financial situations (especially uninsured patients) equally.

However, once hospitals realized they could use liens to make extra money off patients, many took advantage of this fact. Now, they will often attempt to file medical liens against victims in order to secure a portion of the settlement—even those patients that are fully insured and do not owe the hospital money— because they know they can charge more for services if they do so directly as opposed to filing a claim with the insurance company. As a result, many patients are faced with an unpleasant surprise: their hospital will attempt to obtain payment via lien, ignoring the patient’s insurance altogether.

The chargemaster rate, or amount a hospital will try to claim from patients, is highly inflated (averaging four times the actual cost of treatment!). This means that in court, attorneys often have to prove that the amount of the lien is “unreasonable” in comparison to other, similar cases.