Keeping your personal health information private is a fundamental step towards protecting your right to privacy. It also protects you from discrimination and builds trust with healthcare providers, who play a key role in information holding. The law protects the right to have personal health information private through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which bars health providers from providing any information about your health, including personal identifiable information such as their social security number. However, in personal injury claims, providing your health records is crucial in proving your case. Your attorney needs to have a HIPAA authorization form signed by you to access your medical records. Below is an overview of the form and why it's important to your personal injury case.
What's a HIPAA Authorization Form?
This document gives third-parties access to your medical information for purposes other than medical treatment. For instance, in a personal injury claim, the form allows an attorney to use the information to prepare evidence and present it to the court when needed. Here is a list of the type of information the HIPAA authorization form should have:
- Specific information: This includes information related to the case and not your whole medical history.
- Name of the authorized person: This could be your attorney or an authorized representative from the court, e.g., an independent expert.
- Description of each request: A detailed description of each specific information requested from your personal health information.
- Expiry Date: This states the period your attorney can use the form. After that, the authorization to access or use it ceases.
- Signatures and Dates: Your signature and that of your attorney should be on the form, as well as the signed dates.
Why is Signing and HIPAA Form Important For Your Case?
As much as medical records should remain private and confidential, signing a HIPAA form works to your advantage in a personal injury claim.
The following are ways in which revealing medical records helps your case.
Proves Your Case
"The person that alleges must prove" is a common doctrine in the legal world. That means if you have a claim against a third party, the burden of proving the case is on you. In a medical negligence claim, for example, you should prove to the court that you suffered an injury that directly relates to the actions or omissions of the medical practitioner. However, the defendant might deny liability, and the only way to prove your case is by providing evidence of your health records.
The information will show your treatment history, the type of medication received, and whether the doctor negligently did or failed to do something that resulted in a health detriment on your side. The same applies to third parties in other cases, such as motor vehicle accidents, product liability, and workplace injuries.
Gets You Fair Compensation
In most instances, people file personal injury claims to receive compensation for injuries suffered and the proceeding expenses for dealing with them. When awarding compensation, the court considers medical expenses when calculating the final amount. So, if you refuse to disclose your medical information, it won't be easy to get the compensation you deserve. That's because the court's final decision will come down to the most convincing arguments from other parties rather than relevant physical evidence.
Moreover, it will be difficult for an independent expert to determine whether you might need additional medical treatment in the future, which is a key factor in calculating compensation. Therefore, giving your attorney HIPAA approval allows them to present all the necessary evidence to argue and negotiate the highest possible amount in compensation.
Proves There Were No Pre-existing Conditions
One of the most common reasons for insurance companies or other third parties to reject a personal injury claim is because of a pre-existing condition. That's a legal defense where a defendant alleges you had the injuries before the occurrence of an accident. It helps them reduce liability on their part or win the entire case without you receiving anything.
With HIPAA approval, your attorney accesses your medical records, which helps them to gather evidence and show the court that you have no pre-existing condition. Moreover, if you have any pre-existing conditions, your medical records make it easy to argue and demonstrate that they don't correlate with the injuries suffered.
Helps Abide by the Court Orders
Court directions, including a subpoena, can override your right to medical confidentiality. Subpoenas are legal documents issued by courts that direct an individual to provide evidence or become a witness. In a personal injury claim, the defendant can file for a subpoena to direct you to provide health information if it's in the interest of justice. Failure to honor a subpoena is contempt of court and can result in court fines, dismissal of the case, or jailing you. However, it's important to know that the person getting the HIPAA approval can only access the relevant information to the case. Failure to uphold that amounts to a breach of privacy, and you can file a claim against them.
Can An Attorney Use Your Medical Records Beyond the Legal Claim?
One of the key requirements in a HIPAA approval form is specifying why the approved person needs their health records. Therefore, your lawyer can only use medical records to the extent of your legal claim. Disclosing the information to a third party or using it against you makes them liable for breach of privacy and confidentiality. Moreover, the legal practice provides for an attorney-client privilege and confidentiality, with you (the client) being the privilege holder. This rule prevents attorneys from disclosing any information, including medical health records, without your authorization. For instance, in D.C., failure to honor this rule results in violations of rules of professional conduct and can get them disbarred.
Our Attorneys Can Help You Get the Compensation You Deserve
Are you looking to get compensation for personal injuries caused? Contact the Igwe Law Firm for assistance with your case. We provide free case evaluation and guidance on how to proceed. In addition to personal injury claims, our servicesextend to civil rights and criminal cases. Our Law practice covers residents in P.A., NJ, DE, MD, D.C., and N.Y.