Do you need medical records in personal injury cases? Personal injury cases require a lot of evidence. This is because the injured party carries the burden of proving that the defendant injured them – and this is not always easy to do.
Think about the four elements required to have a successful case:
- Duty – Showing that the defendant owed you a duty of care to prevent the accident
- Breach of Duty – Proving that the defendant breached the duty of care owed to you
- Causation – Establishing a clear connection between the defendant’s breach of duty and your injuries
- Damages – To receive compensation, you must have suffered some form of damages – whether that is medical costs, lost wages, property damage, and so forth
To create the link between the breach of duty and injury, medical records are needed. These show when you sought treatment, the type and cost of treatment, and a professional’s opinion on your prognosis.
Without medical records, you cannot win a personal injury case. Therefore, do not be surprised when you are asked to release your medical records.
To make you more comfortable with the idea, we will discuss why these records matter, how they are used, and your privacy.
Why Are Medical Records Important in Personal Injury Cases?
Medical records are the focus of a personal injury lawsuit. As the plaintiff, you have the burden to prove that the defendant was the cause of your injuries. You may have an accident report, witness statements, and photographs showing an accident occurred, and the defendant was at fault. However, to receive damages you must prove that there were injuries – and that requires your medical records.
The Role Medical Records Play
In an injury case, your medical records are evidence. They are one of the most crucial pieces of medical evidence because they help establish that you are telling the truth about your injuries. Just some types of records that you may be requested to hand over include:
- Emergency room records
- Physician notes
- Doctor’s diagnosis
- Treatment plans
- Estimated recovery and prognosis
- Descriptions of pain during treatment
- Future medical treatment plans
- Estimated future medical costs
- Medical bills
Your medical records prove your injuries. Everything from the emergency room intake forms to your physician’s notes will be used to show your injury types and the pain you have suffered. It also helps establish any future medical costs and problems you may have because of the injury.
Most importantly, your medical records help establish damages. They show the treatments you have received, why you received them, and how much they cost. The records also help determine the prognosis in order to assist in determining future medical expenses.
How Private is My Medical Information in a Case?
When you file a personal injury lawsuit, a lot of your privacy goes out the window – but that is the price you pay to seek compensation against a person. You essentially waive your right to privacy when it comes to social media, private life, and medical records.
Providing Authorization to Records
For the insurance company or defense team to see your medical records, they will ask for a medical authorization. The authorization allows a third-party to access copies of your medical records and personal information. Your attorney will review the scope of the request, ensuring that the defense is not requesting more information than necessary.
Authorizations for all medical providers will be necessary, including:
- Physical therapists
- Diagnostic facilities
Insurance companies may use a medical authorization to get information not related to the accident. Some insurance companies do this as a strategy. They want to dig up evidence that you are faking your injuries, or using a pre-existing condition to seek damages. That is why you need an attorney to review the records authorization forms and ensure that only relevant information is being requested.
The Independent Medical Examination (IME)
Be aware that you may be required to do an independent medical examination. An independent physician who does an IME is chosen by the insurance company or defendant. This is someone other than your physician. The IME is used to:
- determine if you have suffered injury,
- determine if the injury was as serious as you claim in your lawsuit, and
- if the injury was caused by the accident or another incident unrelated to the crash.
You are not always required to submit to an IME, but insurance policies may need it, or the court may order you to attend one – especially if there are questions about the doctor’s competency in your injury case.
During an IME, you are examined by a qualified physician, but this physician works for the insurance company. They will generate an IME report, which they then send to your attorney and the defense. It will also be part of the pre-trial discovery phase and become a part of the court record – if your case continues to the trial phase.
The doctor’s report details your examination, including medical history, records reviewed by the IME doctor, conversations with you, and their findings. Anything you say to the IME doctor may be included, which is why it is vital that you have an attorney present. Usually, the report falls in favor of the defense, which is why your attorney will work to disprove findings in the report.
Injured? You Need an Advocate
If you have been seriously injured, you need an advocate by your side to protect your best interests, but also your privacy.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.