The aftermath of an accidental injury can be a time of pain, stress, and confusion. While a letter of protection isn't necessary in every injury case, they can play a pivotal role in personal injury cases, particularly when victims face financial barriers to accessing medical care. in many injury trials.
In short, an LOP is a legal document that allows individuals who have been injured to receive medical treatment without immediate out-of-pocket payment. The LOP is sent to a medical professional by a personal injury lawyer representing the injured party and acts as a guarantee that medical expenses will be covered by the proceeds of a future settlement or court award. Keep reading to learn more about how a letter of protection works.
What Is a Letter of Protection?
Few people can pay out of pocket for after-accident medical care. When you consider that the cost of an ambulance ride in Broward County ranges from $507 to $1,000 and the cost of an overnight stay in a Florida hospital ranges from $1,612 to $2,265, you could be thousands of dollars in debt before you even have a test or medical procedure. Your insurance company may offer to pay for your medical bills, but if you accept their offer, you won't be able to ask for more money if and when your costs exceed their initial settlement.
A letter of protection is a legal assurance that you will pay your medical bills from your settlement when you receive it. It allows the doctors to provide whatever treatments you require knowing that they will receive future payment. For you, as a plaintiff, it allows you to receive healthcare without having to provide immediate funds or to accept whatever the insurance company offers.
When your case settles, or your attorney wins through litigation, your medical bills will be paid before you receive your settlement check.
Letter of Protection and Automobile Injuries
Sometimes it's easier to understand legal concepts like letters of protection with an example. Suppose you are driving through an intersection and another driver runs a red light, striking your car from the side. You are transported to the hospital in an ambulance with several injuries. By the time you're released, you have accrued thousands of dollars in tests and treatments, but you will also require a follow-up procedure, physical therapy, medicine, MRIs, etc. That means, in addition to the debt that you've already accrued, you will either have to pay for the services you still need or accrue additional debt. Instead of maxing out your credit cards or selling your home, healthcare providers will accept a letter of protection to ensure prompt payment once your case settles.
Letter of Protection for a Work Injury
Workplace injuries often work differently than car accidents, slip and fall accidents, and other accidental injuries because they are usually covered by workers' comp insurance. In Florida, businesses with four or more employees must carry workers' compensation insurance. If you are injured during your workplace duties, your employer's workers' compensation insurance is responsible for your healthcare. That means that you will have to use the workers' comp doctors. While letters of protection still may come into play, particularly if the extent of the injuries is being contested by workers comp, they are less common than with car accidents and other types of personal injury cases.
What to Do When Your Case Has Letters of Protection
If you've been involved in an accident and you have acquired letters of protection against you, you should make certain that your attorney is aware of them. The letters of protection will deduct the underlying amounts from your total settlement amount. Letters of protection are not the only liens against your case. Before you can collect your check, any agreed-upon legal claims against your settlement or court award must be settled, including letters of protection, mechanics liens, attorney fees, fees for expert witnesses, etc.
What You Should Do if You're Injured in an Accident
This is not to be construed as legal advice. If you've been involved in an accident, talk to Broward County personal injury lawyer Justin Weinstein of Weinstein Legal. You will not pay out of pocket, and he can begin representing you immediately.
Get Medical Attention Immediately
Many accident victims avoid getting the medical treatment they require because they're concerned about payment. The emergency room may treat you whether or not you have insurance or a means of payment, but they are also going to bill you for their services. For most people, a hospital bill can be ruinous. Still, you need to get medical treatment. Not only is it essential to your recovery, not getting medical care when you need it could hurt the outcome of any future legal claims.
Don't Accept an Initial Offer From the Insurance Company
In the hours after an accident, an insurance adjuster will likely contact you with an initial settlement offer. They will offer to settle with you immediately if you sign a waiver or release of claim. The settlement amount will probably cover your current medical bills and may even offer you a little extra. If your mind is on the hospital bills, this offer may feel like a huge relief, but it's not in your interest to accept it before talking to an attorney. First settlement offers are almost always low and invariably less than you would get if you negotiated through a personal injury lawyer.
Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
You may be under the impression that professional legal advice is something that you can't afford, particularly after an accident. In Florida, hiring a personal injury lawyer does not require any money out of pocket. At the Weinstein Legal Team, our professional personal injury team works on a contingency basis. That means that we are paid from your settlement or court award. If we don't win for you, we won't receive payment. Additionally, we can marshall the resources required to win a case. Our attorneys will depose witnesses, gather reports, retain expert witnesses, and negotiate with the responsible parties. Historically, our clients have received more substantial settlements than what the insurance companies have initially offered.
Frequently Asked Questions About Accident Cases
How Do Contingency Fees in Florida Work?
The Florida Bar sets contingency fee guidelines. They start at 33% before a lawsuit is filed but can increase if the case has to be filed in court. Keep in mind that your attorney fees may not be the only cost deducted from your settlement amount.
How Long Do I Have to Make a Claim?
For most types of accidents, you have four years from the date of the accident to file a claim. Do not wait, though. Solid legal cases require time to construct, and the sooner you involve an attorney, the better.