Obtaining Your Medical Records in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

In a personal injury lawsuit, it may be required for you to obtain copies of your medical records for the legal case. It may be required after filing a legal claim that you prove that the accident caused your injuries as opposed to a preexisting medical condition. Another case may be that the extent of your injuries could be disputed. For cases involving medical malpractice, your medical records are the most important element of the case. Continue reading to learn more about your legal right to obtaining medical records and how to request them.

Your Right to Medical Records

The federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) gives medical patients the right to obtain copies of their records from any provider with some exceptions. According to HIPAA, you are permitted to request:

Your own medical records.

Someone else's medical records if you are a representative. If someone else gives written permission for you to access their medical records, you may request them as their representative. For example, if your elderly parents decide that you are their representative, doctors must provide you with their medical records if requested.

Someone else's medical records if you are their legal guardian. If you are considered the legal guardian of another adult, you are legally allowed to access their records.

Your children's medical records, with certain exceptions. Generally, parents and legal guardians are allowed access to their child's records, unless:

the child has consented to the procedure and parental consent is not required
the medical care given to the child was directed by a court of law
the parent concedes that the doctor and child have a confidential relationship

A deceased person's medical records in some circumstances. If you are determined by a court or a will to settle a deceased individual's affairs, you are allowed access to their medical records under HIPAA. Furthermore, if the deceased person is related to you and their medical information is pertinent to your own health, you are allowed access to it.

What Kind of Records Can You Get?

HIPAA allows you to obtain copies of all of your own medical records. Patients are also allowed to access their original medical records at the doctor's office. HIPAA does allow health practitioners to withhold records in certain cases, such as:
psychotherapy notes
information that will be used in a lawsuit
information that could endanger your life and safety or the life and safety of someone else

If your request for medical records is denied, you must be provided with a denial letter. In some cases you are permitted to appeal the denial.

How Long Until You Receive the Requested Medical Records?

HIPAA states that medical providers must give copies of your records within 30 days of your notice. If 30 days is not enough time, they must provide you with a legitimate reason for the extension.

Determine Which Records You Need

You are legally allowed to obtain copies of all medical documentation in your file but it may not be ideal to pay for a copy of every visit you've made. If you have an extensive medical record, it may be preferable to specify the exact part of your medical record that you need. You can specify that you want records within a certain time period or you could demand all of the records relating to a specific condition.

Requests Records from Third-Party Medical Providers

Sometimes your medical provider has received reports from specialists and other third-party professionals that can be provided to you. However, these records may not include all of the records that the third-party medical provider's office has on your name. You may need to make a separate request to the specialists office for your medical records.

Paying for the Records

HIPAA maintains that medical providers are permitted to charge "reasonable costs" for copies of your medical records. State laws usually limit these charges, and some offices provide the copies for free.

What If You Are Denied Access or the Records Are Incomplete?

If a part of your medical records seems to be missing from the copies you have been provided, you may only need to respond with a written inquiry requesting the rest of the information. However, some hospitals and medical providers have been found to withhold important records relating to medical malpractice lawsuits. In such a case, it is best to contact a personal injury lawyer.