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Georgia Court Refuses to Enforce Hospital Lien Stemming From Insured’s Injuries in Car Accident

The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia compiles and maintains a wide variety of data pertaining to vehicle accidents, injuries, and fatalities on State roadways. For instance, the information identifies accidents by the type of vehicle, the cause of the incident, and whether the use (or lack thereof) of a seatbelt was a factor in the outcome. Perhaps by making this data available, drivers will become more aware of the seriousness of the impact car accidents can have on people’s lives.

Those who have suffered injuries as a result of another’s negligence on Georgia roads, at the very least, may have an opportunity to recover damages to ease their pain and suffering. To ensure that you present the best case in accordance with the laws applicable to accident claims in and around Atlanta, you are encouraged to contact a local, experienced injury attorney as soon as possible.

Because of the seriousness of car accident injuries, such as broken bones, lacerations, and head trauma, victims are often treated at area hospitals. When this occurs, the hospital may file a “hospital lien” to recover expenses for medical treatment and other related services. Section 44-14-471 of the Georgia Code sets forth the procedure for hospitals and other medical providers to follow when seeking to “perfect” a hospital lien. A recent case, Kennestone Hospital, Inc. v. The Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Co. (Ga. Ct. of App. 2015), illustrates some of the problems that can occur when a hospital attempts to recover expenses for treating a car accident victim.

In this case, Wanderson B. Silva was admitted to an area hospital after sustaining serious injuries in a collision with Deborah M. Chasin. Under Section 44-14-471, the hospital sent Silva notice that it planned to file a hospital lien, via certified mail, return receipt requested, but the receipt was returned “unclaimed.” The hospital also sent notice to Travelers Insurance Company, but it failed to contain specific information required by the statute. The hospital ultimately brought this suit to enforce its lien. Travelers moved for summary judgment, arguing that the hospital failed to adhere to the statutory requirements. The hospital responded by claiming that it had complied with the statute, and in any event, Travelers had actual notice of the lien.

The trial court granted summary judgment to Travelers, finding that the hospital failed to perfect its lien under the statute. Among other deficiencies, the court found that it did not serve Chasin, the person alleged to be responsible for the accident, and the notice failed to adequately designate the proper insurer by sending notice to “Travelers” (instead of TH&M). The hospital appealed. The court of appeals affirmed the decision, noting that although the lien need not be perfect in all respects, the lienholder must exercise at least “some degree of diligence” in obtaining the information necessary to send the notice.

Here, the hospital failed to take any steps to verify the name of the insurer or to determine the adjuster’s proper mailing address, among other things. The court pointed out that the lien was invalid primarily because the hospital failed to send any notice at all to Chasin – the person allegedly liable for the damages stemming from the injury.

Essentially, the hospital failed to provide the requisite notice. In most personal injury cases arising from a car accident, the plaintiff is required to provide notice of his or her claims, typically early on in the proceedings. In order to preserve your right to a recovery, it is important that you follow each and every legal requirement pertaining to notice, among many other things. You are encouraged to contact an injury attorney who can ensure that your case is handled in accordance with applicable laws. Stephen M. Ozcomert is an injury attorney with over 20 years of experience handling car accident cases, representing individuals who have been injured as a result of negligent driving in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Call us today at (404)-370-1000 to schedule a free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.

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