Don't Count on Keeping Your Privacy when You Make an Injury Claim

Posted By Matthew Clawson || 18-Sep-2015

When you make an injury claim, such as a claim for injuries from a car accident, you will be required to sign a medical authorization for the insurance company that is responsible to pay the claim to access your medical records. Although you have given the insurance company all the medical bills that relate to the car accident, the insurance company will still insist that you sign a medical authorization before they will even consider settlement of your injury claim.

Medical Authorization Form in Personal Injury Claims

This medical authorization, if you read it, will allow the insurance company access to your entire medical history: your medical conditions and treatment you received before the injury, your medical conditions and treatment you received because of the car accident, and your medical conditions and treatment after the car accident—even if the treatment has nothing to do with the car accident! Most authorizations also allow the insurance company to talk to your doctors or medical providers—whether or not they have treated you for injuries from the car accident.

What About Medical Privacy?

Whoa! We all thought that our medical records and information was protected from disclosure by law. Well, your medical records and information are private—unless you are making a claim for compensation for injuries caused by the fault of someone else. Colorado State law allows you, the patient, to stop your physician from sharing information gathered as a result of treatments. By utilizing this statute, a patient and their trusted doctor can continue treating and diagnosing their maladies without the fear of prying eyes and public shame. This mandate affects both in-court testimony and to investigation of the claim before you go to court. This means that the only way disclosure of private medical affairs can be authorized is through clear and concise wording of approval. In that situation, the insurance company has a legal right to force you to disclose the medical providers who treated you for the injuries from the car accident—as well as the medical providers who treated you before the car accident for any similar kind of injury or condition.

When a patient makes a claim for injuries, the patient is effectively waiving the right to privacy to all medical records that may be relevant to the injury. By making claims for injury and a diminished quality of life, you will impliedly make a limited release of all medical records relating to the cause and extent of the injuries and damages sustained as a result of the claimed negligence. This implied waiver, however, does not amount to a complete release of your entire prior medical history. When you make an injury claim from a car accident, the law says that you only waive your privacy as to “relevant” medical records and information.

Medical Authorization Forms Favor the Insurance Company

Yet, why does the insurance company insist that you sign a medical authorization that is not limited to records that only are “relevant” to the injury? The medical authorization that you are told to sign is obviously unlimited as to medical conditions and dates of treatment. This is a situation where the insurance company holds all the cards. Insurance companies will not permit you to modify the medical authorization in any way (to insert qualifiers such as “relevant” medical records and the like). The insurance company says that, unless you sign the over-reaching medical authorization, it will not consider your claim. Take it or leave it. If pressed, the insurance company may say that it needs the maximum flexibility to access your medical records and medical history to “investigate” your injury claim to make sure that you are not presenting a “fraudulent” claim. (Of course, by simply raising this issue your claim has now been flagged as a possible fraudulent claim because you have expressed concern about the unlimited medical authorization that you are required to sign.)

Well, you think, what is the harm in signing the authorization. What would the insurance company do with my irrelevant medical records? They will just discard them as not important to my injury claim—right? Maybe. But there is no law that requires an insurance company to keep your medical records and information private and confidential. In fact, as soon as you make a claim for injury, that fact of your claimed injury is immediately entered into a national insurance database that is immediately accessible by all insurance companies. No law prevents an insurance company from holding on to irrelevant records in their data system so that, later, they could be given to another insurance company or used against the claimant in another claim or controversy. (This has really happened in Colorado.)

An Attorney Can Help Guard Your Privacy

The only way to protect your privacy and confidentiality of medical records and information in an injury claim is to work with an experienced personal injury attorney. Experienced personal injury attorneys know how to protect a claimant’s personal information from overreaching disclosure, and how to ensure that the insurance company does not hold onto that information so it can be later accessed and passed on to another insurance company later on. The personal injury attorneys at Clawson & Clawson LLP offer a no-cost initial consultation for injury cases. During this consultation, injury claimants are educated as to their rights of privacy and confidentiality to their medical records and information and, if retained as their attorneys, Clawson & Clawson attorneys can insist that the insurance company follow the law and protect your privacy and confidentiality in an injury claim.

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