If you were injured at work, in a car accident, or in another incident in which you were not at fault, you may be facing significant medical bills to cover the treatment you need. Normally your insurance would pay for those bills, but the cost of treating your injuries may exceed your policy, or the insurance provider may deny payment.
In cases like these, you may want to talk to your personal injury lawyer about a letter of protection (LOP).
What is a Letter of Protection?
A letter of protection is a letter you and your attorney send to a medical provider that guarantees payment for your medical treatment after your injury claim has been resolved. It serves as a promise to your doctor that he or she will be paid—though it may take longer than usual to do so.
Let’s say you were injured in a car accident by a drunk driver. You would expect that the drunk driver’s insurance would pay for your claim, but there may be an issue. Maybe the insurance company is denying payment for one reason or another. Yet you need surgery and physical therapy—which means you need a way to pay for it.
You have talked to a personal injury attorney and that person is fighting on your behalf to get the compensation you deserve, but meanwhile, the bills are piling up.
The LOP is typically written by your attorney and is addressed to the treating medical professional. It requests that the doctor allow you to receive the care you need, and promises that fees for medical services will be paid for directly out of any settlement or jury verdict rendered in the case.
Once the medical professional signs the letter, you will be able to proceed with the medical care you need. The LOP is legally binding, which means that even if you don’t recover damages in your case, you will still be legally obligated to pay for your treatment.
Some Potential Downsides to LOPs
It’s important to understand the pros and cons of an LOP before you sign it. The main advantage of doing so is to get the medical care you need when you may not have a way to pay for it immediately.
There are some potential drawbacks to LOPs as well, however. Sometimes, insurance companies will try to use them against you, claiming that your medical doctor now has a vested interest in the outcome of your case, ruining their credibility when it comes to determining the treatment you required after the accident.
A good personal injury attorney can help protect you from this tactic by providing proof of your inability to pay, for instance, or proof of the insurance company’s denial of your claim.
A doctor who signs an LOP is also taking a risk that in the end, they may not be paid, which means not all of them will agree to sign. When doctors work with insurance companies, they are typically guaranteed payment, but personal injury cases can go on a long time—meaning the doctor will not be paid for a long time, either. Personal injury cases may also be lost, or the damages may not be high enough to pay for all of the medical expenses.
It helps if the doctor trusts your personal injury attorney, and if your attorney has a good track record of winning cases like yours.
In the end, it’s up to you whether or not to sign an LOP. Your attorney can help you go over the risks and benefits so you can be fully informed of your options.
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.