Plaintiffs personal injury lawyers typically have preferences in which medical providers they use to treat and render expert opinions on such issues as causation, disability, and prognosis. This is often due to familiarity and confidence in the provider’s competence. It is sometimes dictated by financial considerations.
Many people are uninsured or have inadequate coverage. When care is required that exceeds a person’s current ability to pay, many medical providers refuse to accept those people as patients. Some providers, however, are willing to take on the care and treatment of individuals in this predicament with the expectation of receiving payment from the personal injury case. To insure payment upon the favorable resolution of a case, these doctors sometimes require the patient and their personal injury lawyers to sign a letter of protection (LOP), an agreement to pay from the recovery.
This is not unreasonable. People with injuries require care. Most doctors cannot afford to work for nothing.
Not surprisingly, insurance companies and their defense lawyers have managed to use this scenario against the injured and their doctors. The defense lawyers waive the LOP before the jury and suggest it shows bias by the doctor to run up the bill and testify to achieve a favorable outcome in an effort to be paid. While this may be the case with some unscrupulous doctors and lawyers, it is the rare exception rather than the standard.
In the recent case of Goldcoast Surgery Center, Inc. v. Fisher, 2nd District Court of Appeals, case no. 2D12-3313 (Opinioin filed February 13, 2013), this approach, and more, was sanctioned by the appellate court. The Defendant, who caused a vehicle crash, requested a slew of records from the treating doctor and his medical facility, Gulfcoast Surgery Center, including LOPs, statements and billing records, and contracts between Gulfcoast and medical funding and factoring companies. The appellate court, in agreement with the trial court, believed the documents were relevant to the issue of bias and possible false billing.
We believe that the request was onerous, demanding excessive amounts of Gulfcoast’s time and expenses to comply. It also required the disclosure of proprietary information. Unless the decision is reversed at rehearing or on appeal by Florida’s Supreme Court, this decision will chill the involvement of many good doctors and make it more difficult for those injured by the negligence of others to receive justice.
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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.
While prompt resolution of your legal matter is our goal, our approach is fundamentally different. Our clients are “people” and not “cases” or “files.” We take the time to build a relationship with our clients, realizing that only through meaningful interaction can we best serve their needs. In this manner, we have been able to best help those requiring legal representation.