A personal injury case is typically built on medical records, and an injured party will be required to prove that another party’s negligent conduct caused their bodily injuries. Although evidence of the plaintiff’s injuries appears in their medical records, there are usually some marginally related or unrelated medical issues in these records, including injuries to other parts of the body or injuries to the same area that healed long ago.
The law protects a personal injury claimant’s privacy by barring discovery or admission of protected information, including unrelated or pre-existing medical records, unless they are directly relevant to the plaintiff’s claims. An experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney will work hard to protect clients from attacks based on unrelated or scarcely-related medical records.
How unrelated medical records can hurt a personal injury case
Suppose the insurance company representing the liable party in a personal injury lawsuit gains possession of a plaintiff’s entire medical record. In that case, they will likely attempt to discover other medical conditions, occurring before or after the incident, that can be used as alternative explanations regarding the plaintiff’s current:
- Medical issues
- Pain and suffering
- Diminished emotional state
- Decreased functional capacity
- Inability to return to work.
Allowing adverse insurance companies access to unrelated or marginal medical issues during discovery or at trial can critically damage a personal injury case. The defendant can attempt to redirect blame to the plaintiff whenever they can.
What should I do when an insurance company asks me to sign a medical release?
Insurance companies often send claimants a medical release form requesting permission to view their medical records; however, you should not sign this form. If you do, you are permitting them to look at all your medical records, not just the ones related to the accident. This is never a good idea because:
- Doing so will give the insurance company details about your pre-existing medical conditions.
- Once the insurance company has all your medical records, they will scour them to find evidence to suggest that your injuries aren’t from the accident at issue.
- If they think they can argue that your injuries are unrelated to your accident, they will do all they can to diminish or deny your claim.
Once you sign that release, insurance companies can pull almost all of your medical records and use it to undermine your case, picking the ones that suggest your injuries aren’t that severe or infer that you may have had the condition before the accident occurred, even if the car accident made your condition worse.
However, you cannot just refuse to let any insurance company see any of your medical records. There are specific medical records that they will need to verify your injuries, such as:
- Medical records that directly relate to the treatment you received after the accident
- X-rays, CT scans, and diagnostic tests that illustrate your injuries
- Notes describing the treatment you received and any continuing recommended treatment
You need to know when it is acceptable to turn over medical records to the insurance company, and which specific records they cannot obtain without authorization. An experienced Savannah personal injury lawyer will work directly with the insurance company to provide the medical records and billings related to the accident and your subsequent injuries only, not your entire medical history.
Insurance companies aren’t on your side
Despite what you might think, insurance companies aren’t there for you. Instead, they want to get you to settle your injury case for the lowest amount of compensation possible to protect the company’s bottom line. That is why you should not give them anything that they can use against you and should never accept their initial settlement offer.
You should consider speaking with a qualified personal injury attorney before you provide any information to an insurance company. At Harris Lowry Manton LLP, we take our clients’ rights extremely seriously and will never do anything to jeopardize the strength of your case. Call us in Atlanta at 404-998-8847, in Savannah at 912-417-3774, or complete our contact form to schedule your free initial consultation with one of our experienced lawyers today.
One of the nation’s top trial attorneys, Jeff Harris is an award-winning litigator who handles high-profile, complex cases across a wide variety of practice areas. He excels at securing justice for clients who have been seriously injured or killed, holding responsible parties accountable for their actions as well as their negligence.
Read more about Jeffrey R. Harris here.