What is a Letter of Protection in a Car Accident Case?

Sometimes, the greatest challenge for those injured in automobile accidents is getting the necessary treatment for their injuries.  Often times, the injured person will have no insurance, auto or medical, to cover the treatment.  Worse yet, the negligent driver’s insurance will not pay until the case is settled.

This means that the injured person must seek alternative means of obtaining medical treatment.  One possibility is a letter of protection from a personal injury attorney.  This leads to the immediate question you may be having and the subject of this page, “What is a Letter of Protection?”

A letter of protection is a letter from an attorney that basically assures the medical provider that it will be paid from any settlement or judgment proceeds.  This in turn raises a number of other questions that you may have.

A Letter of Protection is Not a Guarantee of Payment

First, the letter of protection is not a guarantee that the doctor will be paid.  Instead, it is a guarantee that the medical or other treatment provider will be paid in the event that there is a settlement or verdict.  If there is no settlement or verdict, the attorney is not responsible to the provider for your medical bills.

This leads to the question, “Who is responsible for the treatment if there is no settlement or verdict?”   The answer unfortunately is that you are solely responsible for the medical and other treatment expenses if there is no settlement or verdict.  This is a possibility so it important that you choose your attorney wisely.

A thoughtful personal injury lawyer will give you a frank assessment of the merits of your case.  This is important to you since if your case does not pan out, you may be facing some pretty significant medical and other treatment liens.   It is equally important to work with an attorney that has relationships with providers that will avoid such an outcome.  This is another topic.

You are Still Responsible for the Medical Bills

The next question you likely have is “Who pays for the medical and treatment liens once there is a settlement or verdict?”  Again, the answer may be disappointing but it is the reality.  You are solely responsible for the treatment liens.  These must be paid out of the settlement or verdict and it comes out of your portion of the settlement or verdict, not the attorney’s.

Next, you may be asking “Can I refuse to pay the medical providers from the settlement or verdict?”  The answer is yes and no.  You can refuse, but the attorney will then hold the amounts in trust until the dispute is settled.  The attorney will not turn over the funds to you since the attorney has provided a binding letter of protection stating that the provider would be paid.  Moreover, you as a patient will have signed a similar agreement with the doctor agreeing to pay the medical bills from the settlement or verdict.

Some of this may seem unfair at first glance.  But, in reality, it is generally both fair and necessary.  The provider deserves to be paid.  And you deserve to get treatment.  The letter of protection is the mechanism for making both these things possible.  Without the letter of protection, injured persons would in many cases be unable to get sorely needed medical care.

Most injured persons when faced with the possibility that their injuries will go untreated will agree that this is a pretty fair solution.    If you are injured in car accident, it is important to speak to an injury lawyer experienced in auto accidents who is familiar with letters of protection.