What Makes Medical Records Important In A Personal Injury Case?

When pursuing a personal injury claim or medical malpractice claim against a health care professional, many people are most worried about financial concerns. This is usually due to the overwhelming medical bills and lost wages they are accruing while they recover and wait for the personal injury claim to be finished. However, injured parties should be equally concerned with choosing the correct law firm.

The main goal of the initial consultation with accident victims is to go over the details of the incident. But, sometimes, the claimants don’t pay attention to important factors that can affect how much money they receive and how the lawsuit may impact their personal lives.

The medical attorney will likely ask you about the medical cost you have incurred so far and whether you have any medical records to prove the extent of your injuries. The legal counsel will want to know if an accident or a mistake by medical professionals was the cause of your injuries before deciding to proceed with your lawsuit.

Why are attorneys concerned about this in personal injury and medical malpractice cases? Medical expenses are important when figuring out how much a personal injury case could be settled for and the case’s validity. This is because most of the time, medical expenses are the main damages that victims suffer and wish to be repaid. It is important to have thorough medical records to back up your case in medical malpractice claims and other personal injury cases.

According to Florida Statute 627.736, after an automobile accident, a person must obtain medical treatments within 14 days to qualify for personal injury protection (PIP) compensation and other damages. This means that if you are injured in an accident, then you should seek medical treatment right away and keep any medical records. This will ensure that you can receive compensation from the party responsible for the accident if you file a personal injury or medical malpractice claim. You should also seek treatment immediately to increase your chances of receiving compensation from your PIP coverage.

If you delay seeking medical care for an injury, then you may lose legal power and the opportunity to collect compensation for medical expenses and other damages. Your medical records will show that you received medical care after the date specified by state law, further disqualifying you from PIP compensation.

What You Should Know About Authorizing The Release Of Your Medical Records

If you’ve decided to sue for personal injury in a medical malpractice case, then your attorney will probably ask you to authorize the release of your medical records from health care professionals. This will help your attorney understand your injury and build a stronger case. The patient’s name, Social Security number, date of birth, patient account number and home address are among the pieces of information sought by the request to access your medical information.

Under Florida state law, the defense is not entitled access to a victim’s entire medical history. In a personal injury case, the claimant must produce only pertinent medical records.

Although this legislation permits access to your medical records by defendants, it does so without sacrificing your privacy. According to Florida Statute 456.057(7)(a)2, the right to privacy is likewise extended to your medical records, so you may feel confident that you and your medical history are secure.

Authorize Through Power of Attorney

In special cases, when the plaintiff cannot get the medical reports in person, they may provide a family member or the medical attorney with a power of attorney (POA) form to get your medical report on your behalf. This legal document also allows them to make other critical decisions regarding your health on your behalf.

When you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself, an advance health care directive, living will or medical POA names the individual you want to handle these issues. This person is allowed to make medical decisions on your behalf. It also specifies your preferences regarding medical treatment and intervention.

If someone is injured and can’t speak for themselves, then a guardian or designated medical POA can file a claim on their behalf. However, only someone appointed as the guardian can file a lawsuit on behalf of the injured party in the case of medical malpractice.

The injured person’s POA or guardian ad litem (GAL) can request their medical records. This is the first step in finding out if they have a case. If it looks like they do, the medical POA can petition the court to become the GAL and file the lawsuit themselves. Either the clerk can appoint the GAL or a hearing will have to be scheduled in front of the judge, depending on how severe the injured party’s disability is.

Medical Records And Insurance Companies

In some cases, the insurance company will send you a request for the release of your medical records. It will want you to sign it, giving it complete access to your medical records. You should know that you don’t have to give your insurance company access to all your medical records. The insurer may only ask for documents that are relevant to the claim in question.

You are to only comply if its request is for medical records relating to the accident. If it demands access to all your medical records, then you should consult with an attorney from your law firm about your rights and options.

There may be times when the insurance provider will need additional information from your medical records for its investigation into the cause of your injuries as well as your prior injuries, which might have exacerbated your present condition. The provider will have to tell you why it needs them, however, because the insurance company does not have the legal authority to go through the details of your health care in the past to try to embarrass or intimidate you. It may only look at files that are relevant to the claim.

How To Retrieve Medical Records

Medical records are crucial because they can make or break the case. Your medical records are needed to prove your injuries, the severity of your injuries and the treatment that you have received. If you enlist the services of a medical malpractice attorney, your lawyer requires these records to:

  • Determine if the injuries sustained were caused by the defendant’s negligence
  • Decide damages and liable parties
  • Recognize any loopholes that can hurt your case
  • Prepare for expert review

Medical record retrieval can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive process.

A Patient’s Rights Under HIPAA

The state and federal laws govern how you and others may access your medical records. The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) ensures your right to privacy, limiting who can access and receive your private medical information. The HIPAA has also established a regulatory framework for accessing your medical records, which includes:

  • Fees for the issue of copies of your medical records
  • How long the medical service provider should save and store your records
  • The duration of time within which the medical service providers have to respond to requests for records

Requesting Your Medical Records

Most hospitals and health care providers have HIPAA compliance forms that they will ask you to fill out before releasing your medical records. Requests for your medical records must be made in writing by you or your representative. If you are represented by an attorney, they can request your records and deal with insurance companies.

Useful Tips For Retrieving Medical Records

We possess the knowledge and experience to retrieve, secure and organize medical records. We suggest that you:

  • Make an error-free request: A single error may lead to a delay in getting your request processed. The wording you use can impact your medical record retrieval request. You will need to know the records you are looking for and how to ask for them successfully.
  • Ensure that you are being charged fairly: Medical records retrieval can be an expensive process. Even though HIPAA has laid out guidelines for medical service providers to charge fairly, “unreasonable fees” are commonly charged.
  • Make sure that you send the request to the correct department: It is important to identify and locate the department from which you wish to collect your medical records. Call and verify the details before sending a request to the right department at its correct address.
  • Seek only important and relevant records: Collecting unnecessary records can be a time-consuming and expensive exercise. Request records that will validate and strengthen your claim.
  • Follow up regularly on a request placed: As per federal laws, a request must be met by medical service providers within 30 days of providing a record request receipt. Gentle reminders can be sent from time to time to speed up the process. If the medical service provider has an online portal, then register on it to track the status of your request.
  • Organize medical records: It is important that you properly organize your medical records to use them more efficiently and effectively. This enables you or your attorney to find necessary information quickly when preparing and presenting your case.

The Medical Records To Retrieve

We are medical malpractice and personal injury lawyers who deal with medical records quite frequently. We know how to navigate through the complex and complicated environment of protected health information. The most common pieces of medical documentation that play integral roles in a personal injury claim besides incident reports and photo, video and audio documentation include:

  • Initial examination information
  • Checkups
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Medical procedures
  • Doctor’s written notes
  • Prognosis information
  • Prescriptions (both short and long term)
  • Preexisting conditions
  • Medical-related expenditures

Insurance companies rely on medical records to validate injury claims. They may ask you to sign a release form before they process your claim. Although HIPAA protects against the unauthorized release of private medical information, some insurance companies can go through your past medical records to find something that they can use to deny or minimize your claim.

You should consult us at Kaire & Heffernan before signing any release forms or giving any statements to insurance companies. As most attorneys represent victims on a contingency fee basis, it is in your best interests to enlist the services of an experienced medical malpractice/personal injury lawyer to seek adequate compensation for damages sustained.

Links To Hospitals To Get Medical Records

Download our Hitech/HIPAA Form

For More Information, Reach Out To Us

Contact us at Kaire & Heffernan with any questions regarding your medical malpractice or other injury lawsuit. We will be happy to help you determine the best strategy and fight for your rights. Reach out today online or call us at 305-376-7860.