If you have filed a personal injury claim against an at-fault party for injuries after an auto accident, your medical records are the most important piece of evidence available. In fact, the dollar amount of your medical injuries and the severity of your injury are closely tied to the amount of money that could be offered to you in a settlement. With so much riding on your medical records, it's in your best interest to understand what your rights are and how to procure your records. Read on to learn more about this vital piece of evidence.
HIPAA Protections and Rights
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 makes it much easier to access your medical records than previously. Most people recognize the HIPAA acronym from the forms in the doctor's office, but this act gave consumers some powerful rights to their medical records in addition to protecting the privacy of their medical information. The most useful provision for your purposes is the right to receive copies of your medical records within 30 days of your request, at a reasonable fee and with a written notice of any denial.
Requesting Your Records
While each medical facility is required to comply with the HIPAA laws, the manner in which the request must be submitted varies by facility. Contact each facility for instructions, since many have forms available for your requests. Whether they provide you with a form or not, ensure that the following information is included in your request:
- Name and contact information
- Date of birth
- Range requested (the date of your accident forward)
- Types of records requested (labs, doctor's notes, etc)
Note: Look through your medical receipts and paperwork to ensure that you have not left anyone out. Many doctor's offices out-source their lab work to local hospitals or pathology labs, and you may need to send a separate request to that facility.
Upon Receiving the Records
Review the records to make sure that pages have not been skipped and for any bad copies. You may have to fill out more forms to get the missing pages.
If the Medical Office Does Not Comply With Your Request
Once the 30 days since your request has passed without compliance, you may need to take steps to follow up. A phone call to the facility could help get any confusion or problems sorted. If you still do not receive your records, you may file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services.
Auto accident lawyers have a unique understanding of the importance of medical records and are skilled in procuring them in a timely manner. Contact one immediately if you are having trouble or need assistance with your claim.