Medical records are a big part of any auto accident lawsuit. Whether you are trying to recover auto insurance benefits, or pain and suffering from an at-fault driver, your medical records will play an important part of your case.
At the start of any auto accident case, you will need to sign medical records releases for each of your doctors, hospitals, and therapists. As your case progresses, some of those documents will also be disclosed to the defendants.
Why do I have to produce my medical records?
Whenever a lawsuit is based around someone getting hurt, the medical records about that injury will be part of the case. Parties can request any relevant documents to prove, or disprove, that you were hurt, and how badly.
Some of the strongest evidence of your injury comes from your medical records. They document pain levels, injuries, and treatments.
But if you are going to use it at trial, you have to produce it during discovery, too. The other parties in the case are allowed to review the evidence ahead of time so they know what is coming.
What will the insurance company do with my medical records?
Once your attorney produces your medical records, the insurance company will send them to its adjuster and an “independent” medical expert for review.
The independent medical experts will review your injuries and the history of your treatment. They will decide whether the treatments you receive are reasonable and necessary to treat injuries related to the accident. The answer is almost always no. Instead they will claim treatments were unnecessary or excessive.
The insurance adjuster will focus on the billing – did your doctors charge reasonable fees for your treatment. Again, the answer is almost always no. The auto insurance companies use internal fee schedules that dictate how much they will pay for treatments. Often they do not reflect the market rate.
What can my auto accident attorney do to protect my privacy?
Just because the law requires your lawyer to produce some medical records doesn’t mean that the other parties can do whatever they want with them.
Your lawyer will want to review all of your records, but the other parties are only allowed those records related to your accident. When the auto insurance attorneys try to reach too far, your lawyers can file objections to their discovery requests and ask the court to limit discovery.
Sometimes there is information in your medical records that is sensitive. If you are worried that something could become public, your auto accident attorney can request a protective order, limiting what the parties are allowed to do with the medical records they receive.
If you file an auto accident lawsuit you need to expect to produce medical records. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be protected. Talk to your auto accident attorney about your discovery concerns early, so they can take the necessary action to protect you and your privacy.