Medical Liens

The purpose of the Texas Hospital Lien Statue is ‘to encourage hospitals to provide immediate care and treatment to persons injured in accidents and to compensate hospitals for the vast sums of money being lost when treating patients who were unable to pay”. Members Mutual v. Herman, 664 S.W.2d 325 (Tex. 1984).  A hospital lien attaches to (1) a cause of action for damages arising from the injury for which the person received treatment, (2) a judgment of a court or a decision of a public agency in a proceeding to recover damages arising from the injury, and (3) the proceeds of a settlement of a cause of action or claim arising from the injury. Tex. Prop. Code Ann § 55.002 (a). The injured party cannot receive compensation from the negligent party without satisfying its debt to the medical service provider as evidence by the lien.

The Texas Hospital Lien Statue currently states:

 

A hospital has a lien on a cause of action or claim of an individual who receives hospital services for injuries caused by an accident that is attributed to the negligence of another person.  For the lien to attach, the individual must be admitted to a hospital not later than 72 hours after the accident.  The lien extends to both the admitting hospital and a hospital to which the individual is transferred for treatment of the same injury.

In order for a hospital’s lien to attach, the injured party must be admitted for the first hospitalization within 72 hours of the accident. As long as the first hospitalization occurs within the first 72 hour period, the lien also attaches to all subsequent hospitalizations due to the injuries sustained in the accident.  Additionally, the lien attaches to other hospitals that the first hospital transfers the claimant to for treatment of the same injures. Id

To secure the lien, the hospital must file a written notice of the lien with the county clerk of the county in which the hospital services were provided, and must be filed before any money is paid to the entitled person because of the injury. Tex. Prop Code Ann § 55.005. If a hospital is not paid and funds have been disbursed to the injured party, the hospital can collect its funds by filing suit for the amount of the lien against the party who made the payment. Baylor Univ. Med. Ctc. v. Travelers Inc. Co., 587 s.w.2d 501 (Tex. Civ. App—Dallas 1979). 

The Plaintiff was involved in an accident, allegedly caused by the negligence of the Tortfeasor, and was taken to Bowie Memorial Hospital for hospital services on the same day.  The hospital’s lien may attach because the Plaintiff was admitted within 72 hours of the accident.  The lien also attaches to other hospitals to which the first hospital transfers the Plaintiff for treatment of the same injures. The Plaintiff was transferred to United Regional Health Care in Wichita Falls from the hospital in Bowie, Texas.  United Health Care also has a valid lien that will attach to the Tortfeasor’s insurance. Each hospital has filed a written notice of their liens with the county clerk of the county in which the hospital services were provided before any money has been paid to the Plaintiff.

 

The Texas Hospital Lien Statue sets limits on hospital charges. Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 55.004 regulates the maximum amount of charges a hospital can place under the lien.  A permissible hospital lien is for the amount of hospital services provided during the injured individual’s first 100 days of hospitalization.

An emergency medical services provider has a lien on a cause of action or claim of an individual who receives emergency medical services in a county with a population of 575,000 or less for injuries caused by an accident that is attributed to the negligence of another person.  For the lien to attach, the individual must receive the emergency medical services no later than 72 hours after the accident.  Air Evac Lifeteam has  submitted a notice of claim for transporting the Plaintiff; however, Bowie County has a population of approximately 5,555 people; therefore they may not file a lien under §55.002 (c).

 

The law is well settled that after receiving notice of an insurer’s subrogation claim, the insurer cannot extinguish that claim by entering into a settlement with or obtaining a release from the insured.  Wichita City Lines v. Puckett, 156 Tex. 456 (1956).  Aetna Health Plans is asserting a subrogation claim on behalf of Jimmy Womack’s health plan.  The funds from this claim must be settled separately from the settlement funds issued to the Plaintiff.