Should You Sign a Medical Release or Authorization After An Accident?
Shortly after an accident that involves injury, you will receive a series of documents from the liable party’s insurance company. The paperwork will likely be titled as a “release” and/or an “authorization,” and it will ask for your signature. Before you even think about signing any document the insurance company sends to you, learn more about each of these documents, so you know their purpose and how they can dramatically affect the value of your injury claim.
The insurance company will send you a bevy of letters requesting access to your medical records. They will ask who your doctors are, what treatment you have received, whether you are willing to give them a recorded statement and so on.
After an accident, an injured person filing a claim will have to deal with the other driver’s insurance adjuster. In particular, one of the things they will ask you is to release your medical records. Our personal injury attorneys frequently get asked whether a claimant must sign the HIPAA or medical authorization for release form from the insurance company after an auto accident.
Typically, the medical release will specify which provider the insurance company can access records from and a date range of treatment they can look at, but exactly what is on the form can vary between companies. We highly recommend that you work with our personal injury attorney if you need assistance with negotiations, forms and insurance processes after an accident. A medical release form allows the insurance company to access your medical records and you need to know what that entails and what it could do to your case.
What Is a Medical Authorization Release?
One document you may receive from an insurance company after an accident is a medical authorization release. A medical release is a document that gives your medical providers permission to disclose your medical information to other people. In the case of an insurance release, it gives your medical providers permission to give your information to an insurance company.
The primary factor used to determine the value of your personal injury case will be your injuries and medical treatment. In most instances, when someone else is at fault for an accident that has caused you injury, it is the responsibility of the negligent party’s insurance company to compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The at-fault party’s insurance provider needs you to sign this before it can gain access to your medical history and health care documents.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and state laws regarding medical privilege protect your medical information from unauthorized disclosure. While you may need to sign some type of medical authorization release to proceed with your claim, do not sign until you have had an attorney read the fine print. The insurance company may have left the terms of the release open-ended, meaning it can dig into your full medical history from birth.
When dealing with an insurance company, there are no guarantees and when you sign their medical authorization release it gives them access to your medical history, past and present, and that can mean you are putting your claim at risk, perhaps leaving you with nothing. Why is that?
There are several reasons why signing a medical authorization can hurt your claim, including:
- Prior Medical History
The insurance company’s medical authorization release will often allow them to access prior medical records, well before the date of your accident.
Why do they want this information?
The insurance company will attempt to relate your existing injuries to information they uncover in your past medical history. For instance, if the accident left you with back pain, the adjuster may find that years prior to your accident you once visited your doctor and mentioned you had pain or stiffness in your back. They will then use this newfound information to try and decrease or deny your injury claim.
- Doctor’s Notes
Why do they want this information?
The insurance company will scour the records to look for statements you made to the doctor that are inconsistent with the type of injury you sustained and/or the severity.
For instance, headaches suffered as a result of the accident may not appear until days after the accident, but the insurance company might try to claim they are not related since you did not mention them on the date of the accident while receiving medical treatment.
It is very common for pain to appear in the days following your accident. An experienced injury lawyer’s goal will be to relate these pains and dismiss the insurance company’s tactics.
- Frequency of Past Doctor’s Visits
Why do they want this information?
If you have non-related health problems that require you to visit regularly with your doctor, or are in poor health, the insurance company may claim that you were fragile before the accident, thus your claim is not as valuable.
Do You Have to Sign the Release?
The short answer is NO. You have no legal obligation to do this, and, frankly, it would be foolish to do so. Never sign a medical release form. A release opens the door for the adjuster to go through all your medical records, including a ton of stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with your case, but some of which could come back to haunt you.
By signing a medical release form, your records will bypass you and go directly to the adjuster. If your doctor is inaccurate with anything, you have no chance to correct it. A medical release also grants permission for the insurance adjuster to talk directly to your physician or other medical provider.
The insurance company or adjuster may make it appear that signing their release is necessary for you to be compensated for your medical bills and injuries. This is not so. While an insurance company is entitled to information about injuries that you are seeking compensation for, you can collect and submit your records yourself rather than letting the insurance company access your complete life history of medical information. Collecting your own medical records after your treatment is complete will allow you to see what is in them first.
Because you can turn over your own medical records, we usually recommend that you protect your privacy and do not sign the medical release. When you sign a blank medical release, you may expose medical information or conditions unrelated to your motor vehicle accident. Their releases allow them to collect all of your medical records: not just ones related to your injuries, not just ones from the time period around your injuries, all of them. The insurance companies ask for this because they want to find something, anything in your medical history that they can use to deny your claim.
Your best line of defense is to hire an experienced auto accident attorney. If you sign a medical release form to release your records to your attorney, he/she will then determine which parts apply to your case, will review your records with you, and send only relevant information to the adjuster. No matter how personable an insurance adjuster may be, their ultimate goal is to minimize what they pay you.
Should You Speak with an Attorney?
Bottom line: Never sign a blanket release for medical records to any insurance company. Our legal team at Duque Law Group is comprised of award-winning and nationally recognized trial lawyers who collaborate with nurses, doctors and medical experts regularly. Though we understand the nature of injuries, we are not physicians, and always encourage victims to seek treatment as soon after an accident as possible, and to follow up and heed their doctors’ advice.
Call us now at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.