Being granted access to medical records in a personal injury claim is important.
Your medical history can provide key evidence you need to get a settlement. And without this information, it could be months before your claim is settled—which could be scary if medical bills are starting to pile up.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about attorneys requesting medical records for your personal injury claim.
Should You Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?
You don’t have to, at least legally speaking. But in the event that someone is seriously injured, hiring a personal injury attorney makes a lot of sense.
Insurance companies, especially one who represent big entities, love to nickel and dime victims, even (especially) when serious injuries occur.
Personal injury attorneys often work on contingency, meaning you can get legal counsel and advice without any extensive upfront charges. They get paid when the victim’s claim gets settled in or out of court. This amount ranges, but is typically about 33 percent of the total settlement.
Why do Medical Records In A Personal Injury Claim matter?
Medical records can play a huge role in a personal injury claim.
If a victim or their loved one is injured or the victim of an accident or social wrongs, they could be entitled to compensation.
Medical records—x rays, doctor recommendations, and even mental health or counseling guidelines—becomes important evidence that speaks to the severity of your situation.
Can You Give an Example?
Here are two.
#1: Successful claim
A person slips and falls on some ice outside of a building. They go to the hospital and receive x-rays, which reveals a fractured hip. The victim sues for negligence and asks for X number of money to cover medical costs and for pain and suffering.
The hospital records show the fracture is real, and further doctor’s notes show that the patient is suffering from lower back pain and having difficulty walking and completing their work. This is valuable evidence that could help the at-fault party try to reach a settlement.
#2: Unsuccessful claim
A person gets in a car accident. They suffer whiplash and a host of other minor injuries which prevents them from working. They also suffer anxiety from the incident. The victim sues for X number of dollars to cover compensation for missing work and for ongoing medical treatment.
However, previous medical records show the patient sustained a neck injury doing something unrelated six months prior to the accident. They were already being treated for severe anxiety. Unfortunately, the at-fault party uses this against them to negotiate a lower settlement or wipe the case out completely.
Although the outcomes were different, medical records were a vital part of the claim.
What is Authorization for Release of Medical records?
Under HIPAA law, medical records can only be released to:
- Your child (or if you’re their legal guardian)
- A deceased person, if you legally represent their estate
- People with power of attorney or other legal authority
Therefore, an attorney request for medical records must be approved by the victim in a personal injury claim before health information can be distributed.
The process can be relatively straightforward if your entire medical history is with one doctor or facility. But if you’ve been treated at multiple places or been to the emergency room for your injuries, it could be more difficult.
Requesting paper copies from several places could take months. By law, medical providers have 30 days to submit your health information. Lawyers often speed this process up and pay for them out of their end, then take what they are owed back after the lawsuit concludes.
This is one reason many medical providers now use a secure online portal to transmit data to and from third parties. It’s faster and safer.
Can the At-Fault Party Request An Unauthorized Release of Medical Records?
No, at least, not initially (unless you consent to it). HIPAA laws protect personal medical records from being released. Your doctor will withhold the information if they go seeking it without permission.
However, the at-fault party will likely request a subpoena to receive the documents. And in personal injury lawsuits where the amount is substantial, it is likely it will be granted.
Keep in mind, every state has different laws that govern how health information is shared. This is another reason working with an attorney could be helpful.
What Are Independent Medical Examinations?
IMEs, or independent medical examinations, can be requested by the at-fault party or insurance company prior to any settlement being paid out. They often come up when you’re requesting a settlement from your own insurance company or in work’s compensation claims.
IMEs are conducted by an independent doctor to assess the extent of the victim’s injuries.
If medical records don’t accurately describe the person’s injuries or the at-fault party wants to challenge the severity of the injuries, they usually get used.
This could draw out the length of your case or risk it being thrown out. IME doctors work for the insurance company. While their medical diagnoses are supposed to be objective, you may not agree with their findings.
Attorney Request for Medical Records
An attorney request for medical records is a key part of a personal injury claim. Understanding your rights to protect your health information and working with medical providers who use up-to-date technology to transmit your data online can both work in your favor.
Request a demo to see how ShareScape connects busy medical providers with personal injury attorneys for safe, secure online medical record sharing today.