Gathering Medical Records for a Personal Injury Case
Using Medical Records for Your Accident InjuryIn the case of an Oregon traffic accident where someone has been hurt, a Portland injury lawyer willnot only want to see his client’s medical records, he or she will also know what to do with them tohelp their client’s case.A recent study has shown that most patients would like access to their medical records, but thesame study shows doctors aren’t quite so sure it’s a good idea. What’s not widely known is thatevery patient in America has a legal right to see their records, but very few people know how to goabout getting them. If they ask the doctor, and the doctor seems reluctant or isn’t immediatelyforthcoming, many people give up, not knowing that they can insist.The reasons given by doctors for not being eager to share their notes with patients are a concernthat seeing the notes will actually lead to the patients worrying unnecessarily about their conditions.Doctors also said patients having access to their records will lead to an increase in time-consumingquestions between visits, something the doctors seem anxious to avoid.On the other hand, doctors acknowledged that if patients have full access to their medical records,the knowledge gained might help them better manage their condition and could indeed lead tobetter levels of communication between doctor and patient. Whether or not patients will knowwhat to do with the information in their medical records is still something of a gray area.What is certain, however, is that in the case of an injury sustained in a traffic accident, a Portlandinjury lawyer will not only know what to do with the information, they will absolutely require therecords to establish: • The extent of the injury to their client • Proof that there was no pre-existing condition which made the injury seem worse than it was—a common defense by insurance companies • The likelihood of the need for further treatment and expensive ongoing therapy • The potential for complications in later life arising as a result of the injuryIn a survey of 38,000 patients in three states, 90% said they wanted to see their doctor’s notes.Almost a quarter (22%) said they would use the information in their records to talk with otherpeople, get a second opinion, and to help them manage their own care. Yet a surprising number ofthe people surveyed didn’t know they are legally entitled to their own records.Things you should know and questions you should askThe first thing you should know about gaining access to your medical records is that you are legally entitledto do so. In fact, the national Department of Health and Human Services have regulations in place that requireevery doctor, hospital, health care plan, nursing home and clinic that comes under their jurisdiction to hand overa patient’s medical records within 30 days of having received a request to do so.If your medical provider is located in Oregon, and your health care was provided in the state, there are additionallaws governing your rights to view your own medical records. These laws also cover:
• What records health care providers are required to keep, and for how long • Who, besides yourself, has access to those records • The means by which you can access or request copies of your medical records • The maximum fees that can be charged for copies of your records and time limits for producing the records, once requested • How much information can be accessed. This is a tricky area, because in some cases, a doctor’s personal notes may be excluded from the records. If you’ve been in an accident, ask your Portland injury lawyer for clarification on this matter. • There are also regulations that give you the responses and remedies in the event your request for your medical records is denied or unduly delayed.Let’s say for argument’s sake you’re having difficulty accessing your records after a traffic accident that requiredtreatment for whiplash, a spinal injury, cuts and bruises or any other type of injury. Ask your attorney: • What are the penalties for a health care provider if they fail to allow me access to my records or refuse to give me copies? • If I haven’t paid my doctor’s bill, can they legally refuse to give me my medical records? • If I feel my health care provider breached my privacy through improper use of my medical file, can I make a legal claim?Access to your medical records is your absolute right, and your attorney will have instant answers to thequestions posed above. It’s important that your Portland injury lawyer has access to those records as well,because they know from experience the arguments the insurance companies will try to use to reduce the value ofyour claim, and they will also know how to extract the necessary information from your medical records tosuccessfully answer those arguments. Gaining access to those records, therefore, is not just your legal right, it’svery important in establishing your rights to a fair and just settlement after an accident.