Medical Lien Law and Legal Definition

Medical Lien is the right of a health care provider, doctor, or hospital to assert an interest in personal injury recoveries of its patients. The amount that can be recovered by way of a medical lien will be limited to the cost of the treatment or the service provided. In some states of the U.S., medical lien is also known as hospital lien. Medical lien may occur when a doctor, hospital, or other medical services provider is not paid for the medical treatment that s/he/it has provided. Medicare and Medicaid liens are different types of medical liens that usually stem from the treatment provided in accident cases. In accident cases, the medical services provider will file a medical lien on any insurance settlement or award that the injured person may receive as a result of a personal injury case.

The medical lien is a legal security provided to a medical provider. But, in many cases, untold losses occur to the medical service provider from the use of medical lien. Therefore, some medical providers do not provide treatment beyond emergency care.

Many doctors/medical service providers do not treat or at least provide limited medical treatment for medical lien patients due to the following reasons:

1. There is no guarantee of payment based on medical liens. If the pending litigation case is lost, there is no guarantee that the amount spent on treatment can be recovered.

2. Medical service providers may have to wait for years to recover the medical lien compensation.

3. Medical liens can result in reduced payments.

4. Vexatious delays.

In the U.S, some state statutes specifically provide that medical service providers have a lien upon the damages recovered by their patients.

The following is an example of a state statute (California) on Hospital Lien.

Cal Civ Code § 3045.1. Claim of lien for emergency medical care and services:

Every person, partnership, association, corporation, public entity, or other institution or body maintaining a hospital licensed under the laws of this state which furnishes emergency and ongoing medical or other services to any person injured by reason of an accident or negligent or other wrongful act not covered by Division 4 (commencing with Section 3201) or Division 4.5 (commencing with Section 6100) of the Labor Code, shall, if the person has a claim against another for damages on account of his or her injuries, have a lien upon the damages recovered, or to be recovered, by the person, or by his or her heirs or personal representative in case of his or her death to the extent of the amount of the reasonable and necessary charges of the hospitaland any hospital affiliated health facility, as defined in Section 1250 of the Health and Safety Code, in which services are provided for the treatment, care, and maintenance of the person in the hospital or health facility affiliated with the hospital resulting from that accident or negligent or other wrongful act.