Most folks – beyond making sure they procure auto insurance in a timely fashion or buckle up their seat belt before going somewhere in their car – do not spend much time thinking about what they would need to do if they unfortunately got in to an automobile accident in which they suffered injuries. And once an incident occurs leading to personal injuries, the trauma and shock can make it difficult to address the most basic necessities such as ensuring they obtain appropriate medical treatment and care. Depending on the location of the vehicle accident, it may be just moments after an accident occurs that a police officer or other emergency responder will be asking or checking to see if a trip to the hospital is warranted.
Once a person injured in such an accident does get to the hospital, an official there may request that the patient sign an Assignment of Benefits (AOB) form – sometimes appended to a Consent to Provide Treatment form – which authorizes the hospital to receive directly from the patient’s health insurance or from any automobile insurance policy, whether third party liability or first party Medical Payments coverage, benefits covered by such insurance. While this may not be surprising to many people treated at New Mexico hospitals, far fewer would realize that when such a medical provider treats the victim of an automobile or truck accident, the hospital can also assert a lien against any personal injury settlement recovered by the victim.
But the hospital’s lien against settlement proceeds does not just trigger automatically by virtue of rendering treatment to the patient. According to New Mexico Statute Sec. 48-8-1, the hospital must take the affirmative step of filing with the clerk of court in the county in which the hospital is located a notice which includes:
(1) An itemized statement of all claims certified as correct by an agent of such hospital;
(2) The date of the accident;
(3) The name and location of the hospital; and
(4) The name of the person, firm or corporation alleged to be liable to the injured party for the injuries received.
The hospital must also send to the relevant insurance carrier via certified mail a copy of the notice. Once a settlement is reached with the patient or attorney for the patient or a judgment of court is rendered, the insurance company will be responsible to pay the sums reflected in the lien provided there is sufficient coverage to do so or the size of the settlement is sufficient to cover the lien which cannot exceed the sum of the charges the patient owes to the hospital.
Where the settlement or extent of coverage is not enough to pay all liens, a personal injury claimant’s attorney can negotiate a settlement with the hospital to pay a reduced amount. If the lien is not paid after the settlement or verdict, the hospital will have one year to commence a new civil action to recover any sums due under the lien.
The attorneys at Giddens & Gatton Law, P.C. represent individuals in personal injury suits in New Mexico. Giddens & Gatton Law, P.C. is located at 10400 Academy Road N.E., Suite 350 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Call the office at (505) 633-6298 to set up an appointment or visit the firm’s website at giddenslaw.com for more information