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Giving Up Your Medical Records

By Aline Miranda on November 8, 2013

If you’ve filed an injury claim because of a car accident, you should expect that the insurance company for the person who caused your injury will ask to see your medical records. By law, they have a right to ask for your medical records since they provide the only way to evaluate your injury claim. Generally speaking, someone with a small injury and a small amount of treatment should receive a settlement that is smaller than someone with a very large injury and a lot of treatment.

Shortly after filing an injury claim, the other driver’s insurance company likely will ask you to sign an authorization permitting them to obtain your medical records directly from your doctors. I do not advise my clients to sign these authorizations because they are overbroad. In other words, they go too far. Should the insurance company see the records of your visit to the ER right after the accident? Sure. Should the insurance company be able to go on a fishing expedition through your medical records to see if you ever before complained of the type of pain the accident caused? Probably not. However, if you sign the authorization, that’s exactly what they will do.

If you hurt your left shoulder in the accident, the insurance company has a right to know if you have ever hurt your left shoulder before. In other words, is the left shoulder pain you are feeling now caused by the accident or caused by some pre-existing condition? The answer to that question typically will not be found in your primary care records, your OB/GYN records, or your mental health records. But if you sign an authorization that does not limit what kind of records the insurance company can obtain, those records could end up in the insurance company’s file to be used against you in settling your case.

If your case cannot be settled and you must file a lawsuit to be fairly compensated for your injury, the insurance company’s lawyers will subpoena your medical records. Typically, they will subpoena “any and all” medical records, which likely will scoop up all kinds of unrelated medical records which they have no right to obtain.

The California Constitution states that we all have a right to privacy and that includes the right to medical privacy. Sure, the insurance company should be able to see medical records related to the accident, but not unrelated records.

If you have been injured in a car accident or other type of accident, not knowing your rights can mean the difference between being treated fairly and being taken advantage of. Know your rights. Feel free to call my office anytime to discuss your rights.