If you’ve suffered an injury in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you’ve probably considered a personal injury lawsuit. A successful case can help you recover the cost of your medical bills, especially if you’re uninsured or underinsured. In circumstances like those, it’s not unusual to sign a letter of protection (LOP) promising to pay for your medical care.
A letter of protection (LOP) is a specific contract between a medical practitioner or center and a patient. The purpose of LOPs is simple: they allow people to promise that they will pay their medical bills with a settlement from a personal injury lawsuit.
LOPs aren’t always the best option, though, especially if they aren’t written carefully. Below, you’ll learn the purpose of a letter of protection, when it should be used, the risks of these contracts, and how to fight back if you think your healthcare team is abusing your LOP.
What Is a Letter of Protection?
LOPs are supposed to help people get the medical care they need if they don’t have enough insurance to cover it. People without insurance, whose insurance includes an incredibly high deductible or whose insurance simply doesn’t cover the treatment they need, may not be able to afford care after major accidents.
These contracts are sent by the patient’s lawyer to their medical care team. The agreement typically includes a cover letter explaining the circumstances of the patient’s injury and the lawsuit pursued on the patient’s behalf. The contract is a promise on behalf of the patient to pay the provider in full once the ongoing lawsuit is resolved. The implication is that the patient will pay their bills with the damages they receive from winning the case.
In ideal circumstances, that’s precisely what happens. The healthcare professional agrees to treat the patient without immediately requesting payment, allowing the patient to avoid problems caused by a lack of care and return to normal life sooner rather than later. Should the lawsuit be successful, the medical provider will receive payment in full, and the patient won’t have to pay a cent out of their own pockets.
The problem is that not every personal injury lawsuit is successful. That’s when patients can face extraordinary medical bills entirely on their own.
The Problems with Letters of Protection
Letters of protection have their place in the current medical litigation environment. However, they need to be written carefully. If a letter of protection isn’t worded appropriately, the patient signing it could be on the hook for extortionate medical bills.
There are two major problems represented by a poorly-written LOP. First, many LOPs promise payment in full on the assumption that the patient will receive a large lump sum of damages. If the case doesn’t succeed, or if they don’t receive a lump sum, the patient may not be able to pay that lump sum. The healthcare practitioner can then sue the patient or place them in collections to receive payment in full.
Second, unscrupulous healthcare providers can use a badly-written LOP to charge patients significantly higher rates than they would charge an insurance company. This can result in patients receiving incredibly high bills that exceed the amount of damage they won. If they don’t win their case, these bills are even worse.
It’s not unusual for patients to sign LOPs without understanding the nuances of the contract or what it means for their finances. If you signed a LOP without knowing what it meant, you could be facing collections for bills that have been inflated by dishonest medical care workers. You deserve better.
What to Do If You Signed a Letter of Protection
If you’ve signed a letter of protection and were left with extraordinary medical bills, you’re not out of luck. The contract may not hold up in court, especially if you didn’t understand what you signed or the billing party inflated costs. With the right help, you may still be able to hold the medical practice accountable.
Research the Cost of Treatment
The best way to fight bills from a LOP is to show they’re unfair. To do that, you need to research the procedures you underwent, their standard cost, and the amount you’re being billed.
Find the bills that list what you’re expected to pay and why. This may be on your LOP, or it may be on a separate piece of documentation. Ensure the bills are itemized so you know exactly what you’re being charged for each procedure. Once you have this information, research how much the facility normally charges for those items. If they charge you significantly more, you’re facing an unfair bill.
Collect all communications you’ve received about your medical treatment and LOP. This includes bills, scheduling emails, consultation records, medical records, and everything else. You’ll need this documentation to back up your argument when you work to fight the LOP.
Work with a Good Attorney
Since you signed the LOP, it’s your responsibility to prove that you didn’t understand what you were signing, that you were coerced or misled into signing it, or that the other party is taking advantage of the LOP to overcharge you. That can be difficult if you’re working alone. Instead, work with a qualified medical malpractice lawyer.
A good malpractice attorney can help you build your case regarding the LOP. They have the knowledge and experience to research the cost of procedures and the contract itself. They can also help you navigate the legal complexities of fighting unjust medical bills.
Fight LOPs and Unfair Medical Bills Effectively
If you were coerced into signing a LOP or your care provider overcharges you for care through a LOP, you might feel like you have no options. You’re not alone, though. You can get help if you believe you’re being taken advantage of.
The first step is to consult with a qualified medical malpractice attorney. That’s the best way to understand your options and learn the next steps you need to take. Reach out today to schedule your consultation and take back your health and finances.