Medical Records in Personal Injury Cases
If you are injured in an accident, it is crucial that you seek medical treatment immediately. Of course receiving medical treatment is essential to protecting your health; it is also an important step to take in protecting one’s legal rights. Without documentation from a doctor or hospital, you may not be able to file an insurance claim or even have grounds for a personal injury suit as documentation in the form of your medical records is necessary to prove that there was indeed an accident.
Collecting Your Records
Why are medical records such an essential part of personal injury cases? First, medical records provide documented evidence that you have been injured. It is likely that your attorney will also ask for medical records that date prior to your injury. Having the two sets of records to compare will help your attorney prove that you do not have a pre-existing condition and that your injury is a result of the accident. This is a crucial part of building a case against the defendant as you seek to be awarded damages.
Federal Regulations on Medical Records
The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, otherwise known as HIPPA, is a piece of federal legislation that allows patients to request copies of medical records. HIPPA permits you to request your own records, as well as the records of another individual if you are a legal guardian or designated representative. It is important to note that HIPPA makes some exceptions to the types of records you are allowed to access. For example, your health care provider is legally allowed to deny your access to any documentation that is being compiled by the provider for a lawsuit, notes from psychotherapy sessions and records or information that your health care provider determines could endanger you or others.
If your request for records is denied, your health care provider is required to provide you with a letter to that effect. Otherwise, HIPPA mandates that your records be provided to you within 30 days of your request. Some states have expedited timelines. In California, for example, patients must receive a copy of their medical records within 15 days of the initial request.
Don’t Forget the Bills
As you carefully collect all of your medical records, do not neglect keeping track of all of your medical bills. As your case progresses, the court will take into consideration the medical costs that you have incurred as a result of your illness. All expenses, from co-pays for visits to your primary care physician that relate to the injury to prescription or over-the-counter medications that were purchased to treat you during your recovery should be recorded and given to your attorney.