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Should I Sign a Medical Release After a Car Accident?

Following a car accident or other accident (eg. slip and fall, dog bite, etc), an insurance adjuster will often want you to sign a medical release. The insurance company will ask you to sign a medical release so that they can obtain and see your medical treatment, medical records and medical bills arising from the accident and your medical history. The insurance adjuster often wants to see the full extent of your medical history including pre-existing medical records potentially up to five (5) to ten (10) years before the accident.

Keep in mind the insurance company is not your friend. The insurance company frequently wants to pay as little as possible for your personal injury claim. This article will explain why accident victims who seek to pursue a car accident claim should generally not provide a release to the insurance company.

Now, let’s dig in to some questions that arise when an insurance adjuster asks you to sign a release.

Are you dealing with your own insurance company?

We noted above the general rule is not to provide a release. However, there is an important exception. You will want to consider signing a medical release when dealing with your own insurance company. That is because in many states the insured generally has a duty to cooperate with his own insurance company. And, that duty may include providing a release. This is a complicated and difficult area of the law. And, ultimately, the right answer will depend on your applicable state law. Thus, it is best to consult with a personal injury lawyer to advise you on the matter.

You generally will not have a duty to cooperate with the other driver’s insurance company. Thus, in evaluating whether or not to provide a release, it’s important to distinguish whether you are dealing with the other party’s insurance company or your own insurance company.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule

The HIPAA Privacy Rule is a federal law that provides national standards for medical privacy and governs the conduct of medical, dental, and mental health providers as well as health plans. The Privacy Rule requires covered entities that use or disclose protected health information to have a written privacy notice, known as a HIPAA Privacy Notice, explaining their legal duties to keep medical records confidential and how medical records may be used and disclosed.

Based on HIPAA Privacy Rule, a personal injury claimant will often not want to provide a blanket medical release to the other driver’s insurance company.

Be Wary of Other Releases that They Want You to Sign

Beyond a release for medical records, the insurance adjuster may also try to have you sign releases for your employment records, tax records, criminal records and potentially other documents. By asking for these signed releases, they are often trying to obtain damaging information and documents so that they can pay as little as possible on your claim. Insurance companies are often in the business of delay, deny and defend. Again, its best to consult with experienced personal injury attorney in your state.

The Independent Medical Examination

An insurance company may also try to have you seen by an insurance company doctor as to what they call an “independent medical examination.” When dealing with the other driver’s insurance adjuster, you should often refuse to see the insurance company’s doctor because that doctor is often not looking out for your best interests.

Remember though, you often will have a duty to cooperate with your own insurance company and that may include submitting to an independent medical examination. Thus, you often want to consult and retain with an experienced personal injury lawyer to get legal advice as to how response to requests from the insurance adjuster.

Colorado Supreme Court Decision in Alcon v. Spicer

There is an important Colorado Supreme Court case called Alcon v. Spicer, 113 P.3d 735, 741 (Colo. 2005) . The Alcon case stands for the proposition that in Colorado you do not need to give medical and treatment records that are not related to the case to the defendant’s insurance company.

The Colorado Supreme Court explained:
Contrary to the trial court’s conclusion, Alcon has not injected her physical condition into the case such that she waived the physician-patient privilege for all of Dr. Aschenbrenner’s records and the past ten years of pharmaceutical records. Rather, Alcon has waived the privilege for those records that relate to the cause and extent of the injuries and damages she claims. Specifically, Alcon has waived her privilege with respect to records pertaining to “lower back pain, neck and shoulder pain, chipped tooth [and] depression.”

Alcon establishes that an accident victim does not need to provide a blanket release to the Defendant/At-Fault Driver insurance company. The Plaintiff will generally not have to provide medical records that are unrelated to the case. In short, it’s often best that the Plaintiff and his or her counsel obtain the medical records in the case.

You or Your Lawyer can Revoke and Cancel a Release That was Provided to the Insurance Company

Keep in mind that you or your lawyer can also revoke and cancel a release that you have provided to the insurance company. You can revoke a medical release at any time. But you want to act quickly with the revocation.

Car Insurance Claims can be Complicated

Ultimately, car insurance claims can be complicated. There are many factors that can go be considered in determining how much money you are entitled to receive for medical expenses, lost pay from work, pain and suffering, mental anguish resulting from the incident, etc. And, medical releases are one more of these considerations. Again, the best piece of advice is to consult with a lawyer when evaluating whether or not to sign a medical release.

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