When a personal injury accident victim does not have insurance, they often are concerned about how their medical bills will be paid. Their insurance companies will try to avoid paying out claims. A letter of protection (LOP) is a contract between you and your doctor stating that your doctor will continue to provide you with medical treatment, and you will pay your doctor out of any personal injury settlement you receive in the future. Deciding whether or not to sign a letter of protection can be difficult, and we will help you understand the pros and cons below.
Letters of Protection are Contracts Between Personal Injury Victims and Doctors
A letter of protection is essentially a contract that allows personal injury victims to continue receiving medical treatment until they receive a settlement from the insurance company or through a lawsuit. By signing a letter of protection, the personal injury victim agrees that:
- The doctor will continue providing the victim was medical treatment, regardless of whether the victim wins or loses the personal injury case and regardless of whether the medical condition is related to the personal injury case, and
- In exchange, the personal injury victim agrees to pay the doctor a percentage of any civil judgment or personal injury settlement he or she gets, regardless of whether they get the full value for their case
When a personal injury victim and a doctor sign a letter of protection, the doctor agrees to delay collecting money for medical treatment until the case is resolved. The personal injury victim agrees that he or she will pay the doctor when the case closes and the victim receives a settlement.
The True Impact of a Letter of Protection
When a doctor agrees to a letter of protection, the doctor becomes somewhat of a joint client with the victim in the personal injury case. The doctor will not have a say in your legal strategy or be considered a plaintiff in front of the court. Once you have signed the letter of protection, your doctor will not be able to decide whether to agree to a settlement offer.
When the doctor and the patient cannot agree on how to split the settlement amount, the personal injury victim must file a separate lawsuit to obtain jurisdiction over the doctor. The personal injury victim’s attorney will need to deposit the funds that have been disputed into the court registry. A judge will decide how the money should be divided between the doctor and the personal injury victim.
Should You Sign a Letter of Protection?
There are benefits and negatives involved in signing a letter of protection. One of the negatives that come with signing a letter of protection involves disputes between you and your doctor. As mentioned above, if you and your doctor cannot agree on splitting the settlement amount, you may need to take that matter to court. It can take months or even years for the matter to work its way through the court system. Conflict regarding how to split the settlement agreement can be resolved by the client and doctor dealing reasonably with each other to avoid this situation.
On the positive side, a letter of production can be your only route to receiving the medical care you need after a personal injury. Letters of protection allow a person who has no other way to pay for their medical care after an accident to get the treatment they need. Even though emergency rooms must treat patients and screen them for life-threatening conditions under federal law, they are not required to provide ongoing care.
After you have been stabilized in the emergency room, hospitals cannot discharge you without treating you further if you do not have health coverage to pay for more care. For example, if you have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and need extensive rehabilitation, but do not have adequate health insurance coverage, you may need to request that the rehabilitation facility sign a letter of protection.
If you are in this situation, requesting that the doctor sign a letter of protection could be the only way you can receive medical care. In some cases, Medicaid plans are expensive and will not always pay for the complete treatment you need. Additionally, even if you have private medical insurance, it may not cover your treatment needs.
The Key to a Successful Letter of Protection
Many doctors are wary about letters of protection. Anytime they sign a letter of protection, they take a risk that they will not be paid for their work. Instead, many doctors would rather bill a health insurance company, so their payment is guaranteed. Nonetheless, doctors sometimes sign letters of protection because they know that showed the patient succeeded in his or her claim. They will receive more compensation than they will typically receive how they billed an insurance company.
A letter of protection is essentially a contract. Negotiating the contract and working with an experienced lawyer who can draft a thorough and legally valid contract is crucial. Like any other type of contract, trust is a key element when you sign the contract and make it work. It is important to discuss with your doctor before you sign the letter of protection so you both understand what the agreement means.
Contact a Delaware Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If you have been injured in a personal injury accident in Delaware, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. At Schwartz & Schwartz, our law firm will assist you in obtaining the compensation you deserve from the person whose negligence caused your injuries. We can also discuss the benefits of requesting that your doctor sign a letter of protection so you can obtain the compensation you deserve. Contact our Delaware personal injury law firm today to schedule your free initial consultation to learn more about how we can advocate for you.