The Pros and Cons of Using a Letter of Protection in a Personal Injury Case
If there is no insurance coverage available to help pay for your health care and/or wage loss after an accident, a letter of protection may be needed.
A letter of protection is a promise from the injured person and his or her lawyer to pay the doctor from the proceeds of any settlement recevied at the conclusion of the personal injury case.
This means that the settlement received from an insurance company has to be used by the lawyer to pay back the doctor.
A letter of protection allows you to obtain medical treatment where you otherwise may not be able to without health insurance or cash upfront. There are a number of pros and cons, however, associated with using a letter of protection that are commonly overlooked by injured people and the lawyers involved in the handling of personal injury cases.
Pros of Using a Letter of Protection
1) A letter of protection makes it easier to schedule appointments
If a letter of protection is involved in a personal injury claim, the attorney handling the claim may arrange the appointment for you. A doctor’s office will have an attorney liaison to coordinate the appointment. This means you are more likely to receive immediate attention for your injuries and/or illnesses.
Overall, it can be easier to schedule appointments when you are seeing doctors who are providing care because of a letter of protection.
2) A letter of protection can protect your credit
A letter of protection can protect your credit rating in situations where you have incurred high medical bills. Sometimes, if medical bills are left unpaid, the bills are sent to a collection agency, which affects your credit rating. But Coye Law Firm’s letter of protection specifically states that the doctor’s office cannot send unpaid bills to a collection agency. (Click here to learn more about paying medical bills after an accident in Florida.)
Note: There are some doctor’s offices that will only use their own letter of protection, and specific language preventing unpaid bills from being sent to a collection agency may vary depending on the letter.
3) It is easier to gather medical records when using a letter of protection
The task of gathering medical records can be a time-consuming process as it can take some medical providers several weeks to send out records. Obtaining medical records is absolutely essential to most injury claims, however.
Using a letter of protection can make it easier for an attorney to obtain medical records and settle a case because the attorney only needs to gather a small amount of medical records from one doctor.
Attorney liaison’s are also much more helpful in getting medical records to your attorney’s offices, and Coye Law Firm’s letter of protection specifies that we need medical records within 5 days of requesting them.
4) The doctor may lower the medical bill
A doctor working under the terms of a letter of protection may be willing to reduce the amount of his or her bill depending on the case outcome.
In fact, Coye Law Firm's letter of protection stipulates that the doctor may need to reduce medical bills to a reasonable fee, depending on the settlement amount.
5) The doctor is more willing to provide trial testimony
There are some doctors that are not interested in being involved in an accident case at all, but most doctors who have provided medical care using a letter of protection are more willing to provide trial testimony. That willingness is an important factor in the success of your case.
Cons of Using a Letter of Protection
1) Some bills may be higher because of the risk of nonpayment
As you may expect, not every doctor is willing to provide medical care and treatment with a letter of protection as it means the doctor must wait to receive payment, and risk not being paid at all if your case is unsuccessful in obtaining a settlement.
The final medical care and treatment cost can be higher than usual because of this risk. Medical providers and insurance companies may already have a negotiated rate or contract; however, a doctor may charge higher rates if there is some risk of nonpayment and that up charge does not mean you will receive more money at the conclusion of you case.
2) The doctor may send you for tests at different centers that do not accept letters of protection.
While a doctor may be willing to wait for their fees at the conclusion of a case, a tricky situation occurs when a doctor recommends an MRI or CT scan at a hospital that does NOT accept the letter of protection.
For example, a complicated brain injury may require ongoing care and treatment from a specialist in order for any possibility of a reasonable recovery. However, it may be difficult to locate the appropriate specialist. In the end, you may be left with a doctor’s recommendations but no way of receiving the extensive treatment you need.
3) Insurance companies may use a letter of protection against you
It is possible that an insurance company may use a letter of protection to indicate that a doctor’s testimony is biased because they want to get paid. The doctor’s testimony includes information such as the severity of your condition and necessity of future care, which may influence the overall amount of money awarded at the conclusion of a jury trial.
Sadly, doctors working under a letter of protection are not afforded the type of credibility that you may want in the final decision-making of your case.
Notwithstanding the pros and cons, the Coye Law team routinely sends clients to doctors who provide treatment with a letter of protection, as many injured people do not have health insurance.
If you have questions about your Florida auto accident case or injury case you can download a FREE copy of Wade Coye’s book, Sharing the Secrets, Learning the Lies: A Guide to Florida Personal Injury by clicking here. You can also contact our expert team at Coye Law by calling (407) 648-4940 today, or by filling out a contact form by clicking here.