Obtaining Medical Records in Your Case
Posted in Lawsuit on March 31, 2017
Without medical records, proving a personal injury case is nearly impossible. While medical records are important, injured individuals should always use caution when discussing medical information. Work with your attorney to release only the necessary records to the proper organizations.
The Role of Medical Records in Claims
In a personal injury claim, medical records serve as a factual point of reference for the claim. Medical records will help your attorney determine reasonable damage, prove the extent of an injury, and prove the time-frame during which an injury took place. Without medical records to prove the existence or extent of an injury, most plaintiffs cannot move forward with a case.
Some attorneys may request you bring medical records with you to an initial consultation. Medical records can help your attorney determine if a legal claim for compensation makes sense. Some people worry they need to disclose a full medical history during the claims process. Your attorney, the defense, and the jury only need to see records relevant to the case. You will not need to disclose unnecessary information. Once your attorney obtains these records, he or she can help you identify the relevant documents to use during the case.
Who Can Access My Medical Records?
You can always access your own medical records. In the event you cannot request your own medical records, a designated representative or a legal guardian may do so on your behalf. Some plaintiffs designate their attorneys as representatives.
Only legally designated representatives and guardians can access your medical records without a subpoena. Do not appoint an insurance adjustor as a designated representative. If an insurance company wants more information about your medical records, discuss the request with a legal representative and/or your physician. You cannot fight a subpoena once issued, but you can control who sees your records up until that point.
Steps for Requesting Medical Records
If you need to access your medical records for a personal injury claim, take the following steps or discuss the process further with your legal representative:
- Reach out to your medical provider. Talk to a staff member to find out where you need to send the request for records, how much it will cost, and if you need to keep any other information in mind during the request process. Some medical offices will give you tips to ensure you receive the information you need in a timely manner.
- Submit a written request. Include as much identifying information as possible including your full name, address, date of birth, medical account information, and social security number. You will need to fill out and sign a records release form before the office can grant your request. Keep in mind that the records request will cost money, and you can specify the records you want to receive. You may want to secure all records for a certain period, all medical records on file, or only the records associated with a certain injury and subsequent treatment.
- Create requests for all relevant care providers. Many accident victims see multiple health care providers after an accident. If your primary care provider does not have all the records you need, you may need to file a request for records with multiple providers.
- Give health care providers 30 days to comply with the request. Under HIPAA laws, a medical provider must provide copies of records within 30 days of a written request. If the provider takes more than a month to fulfill the request, they must provide a valid reason for doing so.
- Address any issues with records acquisition. Occasionally, a health care provider will deny a request or provide missing/incomplete records. You have the right to appeal any request denial, and a quick phone call will often correct any mistakes with records releases.
How you handle your medical records and releases can affect the outcome of a case. If you feel uncertain about providing information to an insurance company, acquiring your own records, or understanding your privacy rights, discuss your concerns with a personal injury attorney today.