Consider this scenario: You’re in a car accident in Rhode Island. Stopped at a red light, the driver behind you looks down to read a text, doesn’t realize the light has turned red, and crashes into your car. Badly hurt, you are rushed to the hospital suffering a number of injuries from the rear-end impact, including whiplash, a serious face abrasion, and a dislocated shoulder. The texting driver is clearly at fault for the crash and given a citation for distracted driving, according to the police report obtained by your Rhode Island Car Accident Attorney David Tapalian. After a week in the hospital, you are released but regular doctor visits and twice-weekly physical therapy sessions for your shoulder and neck injuries are required. In the meantime, you are unable to work at your regular job which requires heavy lifting, but thankful for the health insurance coverage your employer provides its workers.
Fast forward a month, you receive a bill for thousands of dollars from the local hospital where you received emergency medical care after the crash. This must be a mistake- you have health insurance! You ignore the bill but it keeps appearing in your mailbox month after month. During this time, you continue to visit the doctor and attend physical therapy sessions on a regular basis. Your car accident lawyer is working diligently on your Rhode Island car accident claim, negotiating a settlement with the at-fault drivers’ insurance company who has admitted fault for its insured’s negligence. Your facial injury has healed, your neck and shoulder mobility show improvement, and you’re hopeful the doctor will clear you for light-duty work soon. Looking forward to moving on from this chaotic time in your life, you plan to catch up on your rent payments once your personal injury claim is settled and you receive the compensation from your car accident settlement from Attorney Tapalian.
Stunned, therefore, is the only way to describe how you feel when you receive a notice in the mail informing you a hospital lien has been placed on your pending car accident settlement due to your unpaid hospital bills. How could this be possible? You have health insurance! Why are you receiving the bill and why didn’t the hospital just bill your health insurance carrier? According to Attorney Tapalian, unfortunately this is a situation that occurs all too often with Rhode Island car accident claims and it’s a real problem. It happens with car accident settlements in Rhode Island and in many other states. After treating an injured car accident patient, instead of billing the patient’s own health coverage, whether private health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, the hospital bills the patient directly. If the patient doesn’t pay up, which in most cases isn’t even financially possible for the injured person to do, the hospital may place a lien on the patient’s compensation from a potential car accident settlement claim, per RI General Laws § 9-3-4. The hospital lien requires the hospital be paid prior to the patient/client receiving any money from their settlement.