Injury lawyers in Florida refer their clients to “certain” doctors for a variety of reasons. Some lawyers have ongoing relationships with orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, radiologists and neurologist. For example, when a client comes to our Miami law office for a slip and fall, car or truck accident, we recommend healthcare providers we know and trust. We do this because it is important that our client receive the proper diagnosis and treatment. In addition, we try to work with doctors who are ready, willing and able to participate and testify if needed.
Not surprisingly, most Florida doctors want nothing to do with a patient’s personal injury claim. Often a client will call their own primary care doctors after an accident, only to be told that the doctor “does not treat personal injuries.” Perhaps, the doctor knows that accident injury claims result in a greater scrutiny of medical records and bills. They also know that there is a high probability they will be subpoenaed to testify at a deposition or trial. Testifying can play havoc on a doctor’s busy schedule; keeping them out of their office or off the golf course for a day.
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There are also some Florida doctors and “accident clinics” that love personal injury cases. They have their entire practice set up to process insurance claims. Most of these accident clinics provide medical service on what is commonly referred to as a Letter of Protection, or LOP. An LOP is a contract between the health care provider, patient and lawyer promising that the doctor will get paid for all treatment, testing and reports from any settlement money.
People are shocked to learn just how much doctors charge when giving treatment on an LOP. However, since many injured victims have no insurance, treatment options are limited. I suggest you ask about treatment costs in advance and avoid going to an accident clinic.
Auto insurance companies are becoming increasingly skeptical of claimants represented by lawyers who frequently utilize the same group of doctors. They want to discourage injured plaintiffs and their lawyers from using certain doctors who make strong, credible witnesses at trial.
For example, GEICO is aggressively going after a South Florida personal injury law firm that is representing a woman in a uninsured motorist claim. GEICO is trying to find a financial relationship between the firm and a particular physician. They tried to take the deposition of the firm’s office manager and requested copies of all LOPs, records of payment, phone records and depositions regarding every case in the firm’s possession.
The firm asked the judge to stop discovery by moving for a protective order. The judge denied the request, ordering the firm to produce the records with the client names redacted. The firm appealed to the Fourth District Court of Appeal. The Fourth reversed the trial judge, holding that is improper to order lawyers to produce the requested documents without proof of a “financially beneficial relationship.” However, the court seemed willing to allow more discovery so long as that kind of evidence is shown. Read the opinion here.
This case represents a new threat by the auto insurance industry to Florida’s injury victims and their lawyers. It indicates a willingness to allow insurance companies to delve into a law firm’s financial data. I hope this will not discourage lawyers from sending their clients to the best health care providers out of the fear of an aggressive and invasive examination of their finances.