After a car accident, a Letter of Protection may be the only way to obtain the medical treatment you need for injuries caused by someone else. Most doctors who treat patients injured in car accidents understand what a Letter of Protection is. However, the average Joe may not. To understand a Letter of Protection, we first have to look at Florida’s Personal Injury Protection coverage.
Under Florida law, the injured person’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage on their automobile insurance policy initially pays a portion of the medical bills even if the crash was not the injured person’s fault. However, under the law, only 80% of medical expenses that are reasonable, necessary and related to a car accident are paid and only up to $10,000.00 (unless there is no emergency medical condition diagnosis, then they only pay $2,500). So, how does the other 20% not covered by PIP get paid or 100% of the medical expenses once PIP has paid $10,000 get paid? Most times, either by the patient or through a document called a Letter of Protection.
After a car accident, you may not be able to return to work while recouping from your injuries. Unfortunately, the mortgage is still owed, car payments need to be made, food needs to be bought, etc. so how can you afford the added expenses of medical treatment for a car accident that you did not even cause? Most people cannot. This is why a Letter of Protection may be proper avenue.
A Letter of Protection is not a guarantee of payment; however, it is an agreement between the doctor and the injured person’s attorney to protect the client’s outstanding balance and that upon settlement of the client/patient’s personal injury case, the outstanding changes will be paid out of the net recovery before the client/patient get their net recovery. In exchange, the medical provider agrees to treat and not pursue collection efforts until the case is finalized.
While the language of a Letter of Protection varies, it basically states that:
- The medical provider will provide treatment while your case is pending;
- The medical provider will not require immediate payment of her/his bills and will not send the account to collections nor hurt your credit while the letter of protection is in effect; and
- You have instructed your lawyer to pay the medical provider directly from the settlement of your car accident claim;
- Your lawyer agrees to pay the provider directly from the settlement funds after the funds clear the trust account.
However, it is very important to know that a Letter of Protection does not relieve the client of the medical bill. Even if there is no recovery, the bills still have to be paid. If there is no recovery, payment arrangements are often made between the patient and doctor’s office.
Some insurance companies claim that doctors won’t be totally honest about a patient’s condition of they have a Letter of Protection because they have a vested interest in the patient making a recovery so they can get paid. I believe that a doctor has a greater vested interest in her or his license and will not misrepresent the facts just to get paid on one account.
If you need medical care after a car accident and cannot afford to pay out of pocket until the case is resolved, you should discuss the possibility of a Letter of Protection with your treating doctor.
Personal Injury Attorney Matthew Noyes represents those injured in car accidents, motorcycle crashes, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents and other types of personal injury matters. He is a named partner at the Tampa Bay law firm of Perenich Caulfield Avril Noyes – one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Pinellas County. Call Attorney Matthew Noyes now at 727-796-8282 or complete the form on this page or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.