Personal Injury Attorney Ben Schwartz explains why you may be asked to sign a letter of protection for a medical provider.
Hi, I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz,
Thanks for watching! We are going to do a video today on a letter of protection. I got an email from another attorney. She wrote in and she said, “Hi, my name is Jennifer and I’m an attorney. I am new in practice and I just started handling personal injury cases. I have a client who went to his doctor for medical treatment for injuries from the accident. The doctor is refusing to bill his health insurance and instead is demanding that the client/patient sign, and I sign, a letter of protection. Is this normal?” Jennifer, in a car accident case, if there is personal injury protection benefits or med pay, no-fault benefits, depending on whatever the state where the accident happened calls them, then that is what you are going to use for medical treatment.
Unfortunately, some states, not everyone has personal injury protection, or med pay, or no-fault benefits. Also, in some states, the minimum required benefits are so low that if the patient/client went to the hospital, got discharged, went to their doctor…by the time they get to their doctor, there’s nothing left to pay for medical treatment. The doctor is in a position where they have to bill health insurance. Health insurance always gives doctors a problem when they are paying for treatment relating to a car accident or other personal injury type of case. Also, health insurance, depending on the type of health insurance, may not pay enough to adequately compensate the doctor. I know doctors that complain to me that if they do, let’s say an injection procedure, and the reimbursement comes from the patient’s Medicaid insurance, the reimbursement the doctor receives is less than what it cost them to do the injection procedure in an Ambulatory Surgery Center.
So what doctors tend to do in car accident cases or other personal injury cases is, they tend to want to just hold their bills and get paid from the patient’s auto accident settlement, slip-and-fall settlement, dog bite settlement, or what have you. The way they do that is, they give the patient what is called a letter of protection. A letter of protection is a letter or a contract that says, hey we are going to provide you with medical treatment. You are going to pay us back for the medical treatment when you get your settlement. It is something that the doctor’s office, physical therapy office, or the chiropractor’s office is going to want you as their patient’s lawyer to sign. This is something that happens in a lot of cases and is not anything that is abnormal.
I would tell you that I think if it is my client, I want to keep an eye on the medical expenses and I also want to keep in contact with my client periodically to evaluate whether they are getting some bang for their buck. In other words, if they are going to a doctor and the doctor’s treating them and they are just going to the doctor and going to the doctor and going to the doctor and the medical bills are coming up and up and up, but the patient reports to me, or the client reports me that they are not getting any really good benefit from that care then why are they going and getting it. When people normally go to the hospital, or people normally go to the doctor, they are not paying cash for the service that they are receiving.
It is not like when you go to a restaurant and you sit down, you look at the menu and the lobster tail dinner is $39.99, but the hamburger dinner is $12.99, you get to make a decision. You know how much you want to spend and what benefit you want to receive. It is not like that. People go to the doctor, the doctor says to do this, do that, people do it, they never give any consideration to the cost. If the treatment is being given under a letter of protection, then I encourage my clients to try to keep an eye on the cost and make sure that you are getting good value for the money that you are going to be spending out of your settlement. If you have been getting injection procedures and you are not getting relief from these expensive injection procedures, why are you continuing to get injection procedures? If you are getting adjusted by your chiropractic physician and you are getting it 3 times a week but you are not getting any better and months have gone by, why are you continuing to get the treatment and run up the bills when you are not getting value? That money comes out of your settlement if you are the client. If you are the patient, you want to know how much medical treatment is costing. You want to make sure that you are getting good value and relief from the treatment or you are getting some benefit here from the treatment that you are receiving. You are, as the client/patient, you are paying for it out of your settlement.
That is my two cents on that. I hope that was informative. If you are an attorney watching this, I hope it is information you can use to help your own clients. If you are injured in an accident, I hope this is information that you might keep in mind as you are going through the continuum of your medical treatment – on your journey to better health and wellness. I am Attorney Ben Schwartz, thanks for watching! If you have questions for me that relate to personal injury litigation, or the law in general, feel free to send me an email below.