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What's a Letter of Protection and Why Would I Need One?

person with their arm casted and in a blue sling

Car accidents and other personal injury events can completely upend a person’s life. They can leave victims facing a logistical nightmare about how to best get around if they’re hurt or their vehicle was totaled. A personal injury victim’s injuries can be so debilitating that they not only affect their quality of life but make them unable to go to work, resulting in significant lost wages and potentially leading them to lose their job.

Data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that at least 27.5 million nonelderly Americans don’t have health insurance. The reason why that statistic is concerning is that, while the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA) was enacted on a federal level in the U.S. in 1986 to ensure all patients could receive emergency medical care whether they had the means to pay for those services or not, it doesn’t help uninsured individuals or even insured ones requiring costly follow-up care.

There are options available to personal injury victims who have suffered serious injuries and need follow-up care with a medical provider such as an orthopedic surgeon, physical therapist, neurologist, or pain management specialist. A letter of protection (LOP), also known as a personal injury lien, may provide you with the means to receive the medical care you desperately need after your debilitating incident before settling your Albuquerque personal injury case. Below, we’ll go into more detail about what a LOP is and why you might need one.

What Is a Letter of Protection?

A letter of protection is a letter that your personal injury lawyer sends a health care provider, such as a chiropractor or orthopedist, that contains a guarantee that they will pay your outstanding medical bills at the conclusion of your legal case. In other words, it serves as a sort of “I owe you” document whereby the attorney promises to remit payment to that doctor, therapist, or other health care provider from the settlement the patient receives in that case before disbursing any proceeds to the plaintiff.

Why Would You Need a Letter of Protection?

Many medical providers no longer readily schedule patients who don’t have health insurance out of concern that they won’t be able to afford any necessary care ordered as part of a treatment plan, regardless of how serious their condition is. Therefore, an injured party that doesn’t have insurance may need a letter of protection merely to successfully schedule an appointment with a doctor beyond their initial emergency room visit.

Also, no two health insurance policies are alike. While some employer-offered group health plans may have low deductibles and nominal co-pays or co-insurance out-of-pocket payments, the opposite may be the case with other policies. Receiving the medical care you require may cause you to incur significant costs. A medical provider may easily request that you show that you can cover that care by placing a deposit, or perhaps they may accept a letter of protection instead of that proof of funds.

Additionally, someone with either a private or government-subsidized health insurance policy or Medicare may be limited to seeing specified medical providers or only have coverage for specific procedures. Not being able to see doctors with certain expertise or receive specific treatments could be detrimental to your health. A letter of protection may be able to bridge the gap, making financing the care you need a moot point so that there aren’t any barriers to you receiving the health care you need.

These are only a few scenarios where a letter of protection may come in handy. There are likely countless others.

Potential Drawbacks To Using a Letter of Protection

There are pros and cons to using a letter of protection in a personal injury case.

For one, not every medical provider may be willing to accept a letter of protection as a guarantee of payment for their services. Many health care practitioners prefer to receive payment at the time of service. These providers may not want to take their chances on receiving payment if there happens not to be a monetary settlement reached in a case. Even if an Albuquerque personal injury attorney conveys to them that the case is strong, there’s still a chance of an insurer denying liability. Negotiating a settlement can take months or years. A medical provider may want to get paid immediately.

Another downside of a letter of protection is how insurance companies perceive them. An insurance company adjuster may try to poke holes in any assessments a doctor who has agreed to a LOP provides, making it hard for you to secure fair compensation for your injury or illness.

Last, it’s pretty common for medical providers to expect full payment for any treatment received when a patient is covered by a letter of protection. While it’s commonplace for personal injury attorneys like ours at Buckingham & Vega Law Firm to negotiate down bills to ensure our clients receive the highest possible settlement proceeds, doing so when a letter of protection is offered up can be more challenging.

How a Lawyer Can Help You Decide if a Letter of Protection Is Appropriate in Your Personal Injury Case

A letter of protection isn’t for everyone, but it can make all the difference for victims who suffer unexpected injuries in:

  • Motor vehicle accidents, like car wrecks, truck crashes, or motorcycle collisions
  • Dangerous product situations
  • Workplace accidents
  • Slip and falls and other premises liability situations

A letter of protection may give you the ability to receive treatment you wouldn’t otherwise be able to receive without health insurance or the plan you have.

Albuquerque personal injury lawyers like ours generally only offer to draft a letter of protection in cases where injuries are catastrophic. We do this because this is often when victims need costly care the most to have any chance of recovery. Liability also has to be clear. We require this because our law office could potentially be held financially liable for paying a client’s bills if we ultimately weren’t successful in securing a settlement in a case.

The first step to seeing if you qualify for a letter of protection is to schedule a free case consultation with an attorney from our law firm. We can discuss the merits of your case and advise you of your legal options for ensuring you can afford optimal health care.

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