Letter of Protection in Florida – What is an LOP & Why They are Needed
If you were injured due to another’s negligence, and litigation is required in order to prove fault and determine the amount of compensation you are to receive, you may have difficulty paying for your medical bills while your case is pending. In order to help you with this, the law allows your attorney to issue a Letter of Protection to your health care provider if you agree to this.
What is a Letter of Protection?
A Letter of Protection, also called an LOP, is a letter written by your attorney to your health care provider informing the provider that your case is in litigation. It acts as an agreement between the attorney and the medical professional.
Does a Letter of Protection Guarantee Payment of Medical Bills?
The LOP does not guarantee payment of the medical bills, but does guarantee that when the case is resolved, the medical bills will be paid out of the amount recovered. In exchange, the provider agrees not to pursue collection, or turn the bills over to a collection agency, until the case is resolved. The agreement is for the provider to wait for payment.
Is There Any Risk to Patients Receiving Medical Treatment Under an LOP?
There is a risk to the provider that, if the case is not won in court, or there is no settlement with the insurance company, there will be no funds out of which to pay the medical bills. If the case ends in favor of the other party, your medical provider will be free to then resume billing you for treatment.
Do Healthcare Providers Have to Accept an LOP in Lieu of Actual Payment?
Since the letter of protection is not a guarantee of payment, not all medical providers are willing to accept a Letter of Protection and the law gives them the discretion to refuse it.
Basic Components of a Letter of Protection
Letters of Protection vary, but such letters generally provide basic information:
- A statement that the medical provider agrees to provide treatment until the case is resolved.
- The provider agrees not to take any collection action for medical bills while the case is pending.
- Your lawyer will pay the medical bills from the settlement of your case as soon as the funds clear the attorney’s trust fund account.
It is important for you to know that even when your health care providers agree to these terms, you are still responsible for the payment of the bills if the case is not resolved in your favor.
Why Would I Need a Letter of Protection?
If you are an injured victim of negligence, and either have no health insurance, or just a simple catastrophic injury policy, you may have a difficult time even obtaining the diagnostic testing and treatment you require. No matter what the cause of your injury, even what may seem initially like a minor injury can actually result in expensive medical treatment. This is true whether you were injured in a slip and fall accident, in a work-related injury, by a defective product, or in a car accident.
You simply do not need to forego treatment, which can result in making your condition worse than it would be if you received proper treatment. Instead, you can find a medical care provider who is willing to accept a Letter of Protection and provide you the treatment you need while waiting for payment until your legal case is resolved.
Paying for Medical Treatment in Florida Car Accidents and Letters of Protection
It is true that Florida law requires all drivers to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) as part of their car insurance policy. This pays for your medical expenses without you having to prove the other driver was at fault, but only 80 percent of the medical bill, with a maximum payment of $10,000.
Currently, even though that may sound like a lot of money, it does not go very far into paying medical expenses. For example, depending on the type of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) test you may need, the cost can range from $400 to $3,500. And that is just for one exam. Without a Letter of Protection, necessary treatment can simply be unaffordable.
Defense Insurance Companies and Their Attack on Letters of Protection
Your attorney will be prepared for an attack by the insurance company or other defendants in your lawsuit. They may try to argue that you are not as severely injured as the medical provider says. The insurer will argue that since the medical provider does not get paid until your case is resolved, the provider has a greater interest in making sure you receive a financial recovery. That argument can be rebutted by pointing out that medical providers have a greater interest in maintaining their professional licenses than in lying to an insurer about one patient’s medical condition.
- Florida Office of Insurance Regulations, Personal Injury Protection for Auto Insurance. HB 119 – Personal Injury Protection (PIP) – for Auto Insurance Fraud. Retrieved May 24, 2018 from: https://www.floir.com/Sections/PandC/ProductReview/PIPInfo.aspx.
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