Category: Medical Liens

Pitfalls of Settling A Car Accident Case Without An Attorney

It’s not unusual for some people injured in a car accident to accept a settlement from an insurance company immediately or days after a crash. Insurance companies would like to settle cases as fast as possible right after an accident, before the accident victim realizes how injured they are or gets an attorney. Settling within hours or days after a crash is part of an insurance company’s tactics to pay as little as possible for personal injury settlements.

We recently represented two individuals who did exactly that, and neither fully realized what they had done.
In one scenario, our client was injured in what generally could be considered a minor impact. Even our client did not think the crash was severe. A taxi cab had backed up into the driver’s side of his car. Though he felt immediate pain, he thought it would go away in a few days because it was just a small crash. Within an hour, an insurance adjuster for the taxi cab company was on the accident scene. Our client’s main concern was getting his car fixed. The insurance adjuster told him the car will be fixed if our client signs the release.

Our client, who spoke only Spanish, didn’t understand or fully understand that he was releasing or waiving his right to seek compensation for injuries. Our client also didn’t realize his injuries would get worse.

Our client was in his seventies and had been turned to his right, warning his back seat passengers about the cab that was backing up fast into them, when his car was struck. His age and his body position all contributed to him developing sprain and strain, otherwise known as soft tissue injuries, injuries that would persist for days, weeks, even months. The day following the accident, the headache that began with the crash was worse. His neck was stiff, and it was painful to move. His back was achy.

Las Vegas Taxi Cab Accident Attorney

Our client waited for the adjuster to call regarding repairing the damage to his car. When he did finally call over a week later, our client told the adjuster he was injured and wanted them to pay for him to see a chiropractor. The adjuster told him that he didn’t have a claim anymore, because he signed the release. Our client was still in a great deal of pain, so he sought a chiropractor on his own. When he told the chiropractor what happened, the chiropractor referred him to D.R. Patti & Associates. In representing this person, we learned that the taxi cab company routinely attempts to settle a case immediately at the scene of a crash.
In another scenario, our client was in a motorcycle accident. She was a passenger in her husband’s motorcycle when her husband laid his bike down to avoid hitting a car that suddenly swerved into their lane. No one got the other car’s information. While her husband was fine, our client suffered a fracture to her cheek bones and significant road rash and bruising. She was transported by ambulance to the emergency room. By the end of the day, she had accumulated over $50,000.00 in medical bills; but she hadn’t received the bills yet and didn’t know how much the ambulance ride and emergency visit cost.

The following day, they made a claim against their own insurance company and were initially denied. Their insurance company explained that because there was no evidence another car hit them, they had no claim under their uninsured motorist (UM) policy. But then the insurance company said our client had a liability claim against her husband’s policy, since he caused the accident. Our client was thrilled when the insurance company offered to give her the entire amount of her husband’s insurance policy of $50,000.00 and signed a release. A few days later, she found out that the hospital was claiming a lien against the entire $50,000.00 and that her health insurance refused to pay the emergency room visit. That finally prompted our client to call one of our attorneys. On her behalf, not only were we able to successfully get her health insurance to pay for the hospital bills, but we were also able to obtained additional monies from her insurance company under her underinsured motorist (UIM) policy.

Can’t Afford Hospital Bills After Las Vegas Car Accidents?

Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorneys

From our extensive experience as Las Vegas personal injury attorneys, we have seen the huge hospital bills after Las Vegas car accidents our clients receive. For the injured victims of Las Vegas car accidents without health insurance, those hospital bills could prove devastating. One emergency room visit to a Las Vegas valley hospital after a car accident can amount to thousands of dollars. In many cases, when a hospital knows that someone was injured in a car accident, the hospital bills after Las Vegas car accidents are usually higher than for any other type of injuries. In Las Vegas car accident cases, the hospitals know they can assert a lien against the car insurance company of the negligent driver that caused the accident.
Despite the Affordable Healthcare Act, many people still do not have health insurance, and many more people than that cannot afford the hospital bills resulting from a car accident, which bills could be in the thousands of dollars. Nevada hospitals can hold off on receiving payment until a settlement or the personal injury claim is resolved by issuing a hospital lien.  Section 108 of the Nevada Revised Statute governs hospital liens. NRS 108.590(1) provides:

Whenever any person receives hospitalization on account of any injury, and the injured person, or a personal representative after the person’s death, claims damages from the person responsible for causing the injury, the hospital has a lien upon any sum awarded the injured person or the personal representative by judgment or obtained by a settlement or compromise to the extent of the amount due the hospital for the reasonable value of the hospitalization rendered before the date of judgment, settlement or compromise. 

To be able to put the hospital bills on a lien, the hospital must be made aware that the treatment is a result of a car accident. The hospital will also want to know the car accident’s personal injury attorney and the car insurance company of the person who caused the accident. A hospital lien, however, will not necessarily stop the hospital from sending the bill into collections or reporting the outstanding bill on your credit report. Speak to the hospital about this at the time of your treatment or soon after.

To be valid and enforceable, the hospital lien must be recorded with the county recorder’s office and sent by certified or registered mail to the insurance company of the person responsible for the car accident, as well as that person. NRS 108.610 provides:

NRS 108.610.  Notice of lien required: Recording and service.  In order to perfect the lien, the hospital or the owner or operator thereof shall: 

  1.      Before the payment of any money to the injured person or to a legal representative as compensation for injuries received, record a notice of lien, substantially in the form prescribed in NRS 108.620, containing an itemized statement of the amount claimed. The notice of lien must be filed with:
     (a) The county recorder of the county wherein the hospital is located; and
    (b) The county recorder of the county wherein the injury was suffered, if the injury was suffered in a county other than that wherein the hospital is located. 
  2.      Before the date of judgment, settlement or compromise, serve a certified copy of the notice of lien by registered or certified mail upon the person alleged to be responsible for causing the injury and liable for damages on account thereof and from which damages are claimed. 
  3.     Before the date of judgment, settlement or compromise, serve a certified copy of the notice of lien by registered or certified mail upon the insurance carrier, if known, which has insured against liability of the person alleged to be responsible for causing the injury and liable for damages on account thereof and from which damages are claimed. 

Additionally, the hospital is required to provide a thirty percent (30%) uninsured discount if you make payment arrangements in advance. Under § NRS 439B.260(1), hospitals generally must reduce charges by 30 percent to inpatients who lack insurance “or other contractual provision for the payment of the charge by a third party,” are not eligible for public medical payment assistance, and arrange within 30 days of discharge to pay the hospital bill. See Bielar v. Washoe Health Sys., Inc., 129 Nev. Adv. Op. 49, 306 P.3d 360, 361 (2013). In that case, the car accident victim, after paying the hospital its full bill, sued the hospital claiming that the hospital’s charges were unreasonable and that the hospital failed to give her the mandatory 30% discount under NRS § 493B.260.  She presented evidence at trial that the hospital had made a 185% profit margin on the victim’s bill and that the hospital overcharged the victim.  The district court held that the victim was ineligible for the 30% statutory discount because of the personal injury settlement she received much later after her hospitalization.  On appeal, the Nevada Supreme Court held that the victim was eligible because at the time the victim received the hospital services, she had no health insurance or other insurance that would cover her bills. According to the Court, the subsequent personal injury settlement cannot be considered as “other contractual agreement.”

The hospital lien is enforceable only against the insurance company of the person responsible for the car accident, otherwise known as liability insurance. This means that the hospital cannot enforce its lien against a car accident victim’s uninsured (UM) or underinsured motorist policy. See Washoe Medical Center, Inc. v. Reliance Ins. Co., 112 Nev. 494, 915 P.2d 288 (1996) (holding that Nevada’s hospital lien statute does not encompass an individual’s UM benefits for several reasons).

If you were in a Las Vegas car accident and have medical bills piling up, contact the experienced Personal Injury Attorneys of D.R. Patti & Associates to help you. We obtain not only fair compensation for the injuries suffered by our clients but also negotiate with hospitals and other medical providers to reduce our clients’ medical bills. We have helped many clients with their hospital bills after Las Vegas car accidents.