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
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.