Were you hurt in a Texas car wreck or other serious accident? Has your primary care doctor refused you service because of the nature of your accident? Are you hurt and unable to work? Do you need serious medical attention, but don't want to rack up personal debt?
It's time you became familiar with letters of protection.
What's A Letter of Protection (LOP)?
A letter of protection is a document written up by your personal injury lawyer guaranteeing that all of your medical bills will be paid at a later date. Letters of protection are used in all kinds of personal injury claims like car accidents, dog bites, child daycare injuries, slip and falls and so on.
If you've been hurt in an accident that was someone else's fault, it can take months to file a claim and come to a settlement (meaning it can take months before you're awarded any money). However, you can't wait months to seek medical treatment. Since you need help now but you don't yet have the money, your attorney and your doctor will come to an agreement using a letter of protection. Essentially, your attorney agrees to set aside funds from your pending accident settlement to pay the doctor.
To describe how a letter of protection works, let's look at two examples.
- With a letter of protection: If you get a $50,000 settlement and your medical bills are $30,000, your attorney pays your doctor the $30,000 from your settlement before he issues you the remaining $20,000 from the settlement.
- If there’s no letter of protection: You may or may not get the full $50,000 because you have not yet seen a doctor and therefore you can't prove what your medical bills will cost. When the insurance company pays you, you get the entire amount of the settlement, and then you are responsible for paying your medical bills with it.
Won't the Insurance Company Pay for My Bills As I Go?
Some people are surprised to learn that auto insurance companies don't pay for medical care as you go. You can't submit your bills as they're incurred - insurance companies expect you to front the cost and then submit everything at once after it's all over. Then, they might not even agree to pay everything back!
Doctors have come to expect this from insurance companies, which is why they often refuse to treat people who've been hurt in an auto accident. Essentially, they're afraid they won't get paid. This is why letters of protection exist.
Who Needs a Letter of Protection in Texas?
First, the only people who can use a letter of protection are people who've hired a personal injury attorney. If you've been hurt in an accident that wasn't your fault and are using a lawyer to win your case, letters of protection apply to you.
Second, a letter of protection typically only comes into play if you need to receive medical care but don’t have health insurance, or if your health insurance refuses to pay for your medical care. It is a great way to receive medical care you wouldn’t otherwise be able to receive.
In the event that your insurance isn’t paying, a doctor may agree to treat you anyway and defer his bills based on the letter of protection. If this happens, you still owe the money to the doctor – the doctor is just agreeing to hold his bills while your case is being processed.
A Letter of Protection Does Not Mean Your Lawyer Is Liable for Your Bills
Some people believe that because a letter of protection is a document between your attorney and your doctor, your attorney becomes liable to pay your bills. That is incorrect. A letter of protection is never an agreement to pay your bills. It’s only an agreement to disburse funds from your settlement, should a settlement be reached. However, doctors generally trust lawyers to do their job and win a good settlement - it's why they make the aggrement in the first place.
If a settlement is not reached, you are liable for your medical bills – not your personal injury lawyer.
Free Consultation with a Board Certified Fort Worth Personal Injury Attorney
At the Anderson Law Firm, we routinely issue letters of protection when it is needed. We are glad to do so because it helps our clients get the medical attention they need. For more information, please fill out our contact form online or call toll free at 800-354-6275 or locally in Fort Worth at 817-294-1900.
Other articles you might be interested in: