Ask A Lawyer
by Bob Bryan
Mar 03, 2014 | 958 views | 0 0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I had a car accident last month when a lady ran a stop sign and slammed into my driver’s door. At the ER, I was told that I needed to follow up with a doctor if my back was still hurting after three days. The problem is that I do not have health insurance and cannot afford to see a doctor. I am still in tremendous pain and the insurance company for the lady who hit me won’t pay for the treatment. Can I make them pay? Kathy L., Curry

Unfortunately, you cannot make her insurance company pay for medical expenses up front. However, there may be other options.

When a personal injury claimant does not have health insurance, they are presented with a catch-22: they cannot pay for the medical care they need until their case settles, but they cannot prove their case without first getting medical care. This problem can often be solved through a letter of protection (LOP). This is a contract between you, your lawyer and your medical provider that allows you to get the treatment you need in exchange for a promise to pay your provider directly from your settlement funds.

The language of a letter of protection will vary, but generally provides that:

Your medical provider will provide treatment while your case is pending.

Your medical provider will not require immediate payment and will not send your account to collections or otherwise hurt your credit while the letter of protection is in effect.

You instruct your lawyer to pay the medical provider directly from the settlement of your personal injury claim.

Your lawyer agrees to pay the medical provider directly from his trust account when he receives your settlement funds.

This agreement protects the doctor from having to collect medical bills directly from you. Without a letter of protection, a person could receive her settlement money, spend it all, and place the doctor in the unpleasant position of trying to collect money from a person who he or she graciously treated without requiring immediate payment. With a letter of protection, if your lawyer fails to pay the doctor directly from the settlement and gives the money to you instead, the doctor could sue the lawyer for breach of contract in the event you fail to pay the bill.

A letter of protection does not relieve you of your obligation to pay the medical provider if you do not collect from the other party or lose your lawsuit. You have to pay the medical bills regardless of your recovery. This also means that if you settle for a low amount, you may wind up still owing part of the medical bills even after your lawyer pays the provider his portion of the settlement.

Lastly, the letter of protection is not an agreement by your lawyer to pay your medical bills from his own money in the event you lose your case or don’t recover enough to pay your bills. The only way your lawyer would possibly be liable for your medical bills is if he fails to honor the letter of protection and pays the money to you instead. Even in this scenario, you are still liable for the bills — it just makes your lawyer “jointly liable.”

Nelson, Bryan and Jones represent clients in the following areas: Social Security Disability, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Wrongful Death Cases, Personal Injury Actions, Defective Products, Insurance Disputes and Bad Faith, Fire Loss cases, Trucking Accidents, Worker’s Compensation, Drug Recalls, Employment Law and Property Damage Claims.

Please send the questions to: Ask A Lawyer P. O. Box 2309, Jasper, Alabama 35502

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No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.