Signing legal document under duress for chiropractic treatment after injury?

by Nancy
(Fairfax, VA)

I was rear-ended while stopped at a red light. The impact of the crash was significant enough to total my car. I went to a chiropractor for treatment of neck pain. At the first visit, he had me sign an "Assignment of Benefits" document with no explanation except to say it allows them to be paid.

I have now received a $16,000 bill from the chiropractor who is claiming he does not have to wait for the at-fault driver's insurance liability claim to be settled. He says all charges are my sole responsibility, adding if they do not receive the full benefit of $10,000 from my own auto insurance's no fault insurance claim, they will turn my bill over to a collection lawyer within 10 days, and I will be liable for the attorney's fees.

Considering I listed on the initial injury questionnaire that I had been shaken by the accident, could I consider this document signed under duress? Is this a common problem suffered by people in auto accidents? Is there any way I can protect myself from being a victim of these unscrupulous practices? Any information you can give would be appreciated. Thanks.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Signing legal document under duress for chiropractic treatment after injury?":

Nancy (Fairfax, VA):

Unfortunately, you are likely bound by the terms of the agreement you signed when you first sought chiropractic treatment. Suffering pain and discomfort or being "shaken by the accident" is not a legal excuse for exempting you from the terms of the written agreement.

When receiving all that chiropractic treatment, you knew or should have known known you were being charged for it. Unfortunately, many injury victims, while seeking medical treatment, are often in denial about who will ultimately have to pay for the treatment. The patients are in pain and can't be concerned about anything but the elimination of that pain. While understandable, it is not sufficient to avoid a contractual requirement.

An Assignment of Benefits is a legally binding contract between a patient and his or her insurance company, and not between the patient and the chiropractor. It is similar to a lien on the insurance proceeds to be paid to the patient.

Read more about liens on your settlement and how to negotiate medical liens.

You probably signed the Assignment of Benefits agreement while in your chiropractor’s office. Shortly after, your chiropractor likely turned around and sent the agreement to your insurance company. Doing so is standard practice.

The Assignment of Benefits is an agreement asking your insurance company to send your compensation benefit amount directly to your chiropractor.

A typical assignment of benefits agreement looks like this:

"This assignment includes but is not limited to, all rights to collect benefits directly from my (the patient’s) insurance company for services I have received and all rights to proceed against my insurance company in any action, including legal suit if for any reason my insurance company fails to make payments of benefits due to my chiropractor or me. This assignment also includes any rights to recover attorney’s fees and costs for such action brought by the provider as my legitimate provider of chiropractic treatment."

At this point, speak with your insurance company and ask them not to send any monies to your chiropractor until you have had a chance to discuss the payment with him. Then speak with your chiropractor and ask him if he will consider a compromise.

Ask him if he will agree to accept one-third of the amount, or $5,333.00. Tell him the truth. If you have to pay all that money to him, you will likely be left with little or no money to pay for the rest of the bills and costs related to the injury.

Personal injury attorneys are often able to effect compromises with chiropractors so clients ultimately receive fair settlement amounts. Without compromises, clients of injury attorneys would not only receive much less compensation than they deserve, but the same clients would be quite unhappy with their attorney.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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