If you’ve been in a car accident, have slipped and fallen, or if you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice, the most important piece of your case is proof of your injuries. In order for any attorney to evaluate your case or in order to make a claim against an insurance company, you will need proof of your injuries in the form of medical records from your treating physicians. The best way to find a qualified attorney to take your case is to collect the medical records yourself. So what are your rights when it comes to collecting your medical records?
The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides protection for personal health information, including your medical and mental health records. HIPAA protects your private medical information by limiting who can access and receive your medical records. It also protects your right to get copies of your medical records.
Under HIPAA you’re generally allowed to request medical records for:
If you want medical records for someone other than yourself, the medical provider will ask for proof of your legal authority to request that information. The legal authority to collect medical records on behalf of another person can come from several sources, the most of common of which are a Power of Attorney or a HIPAA release signed by the patient whose records are being requested.
In most cases, getting your medical records will be fairly simple. Sometimes it can be as easy as going to the facility where you were treated and requesting the records on your own behalf. However, if you are seriously injured and treated at multiple facilities, this can be a daunting task. For this reason, many medical facilities will provide copies of your medical records via email, or sometimes by mail in the form of a paper copy, CD, or sometimes a flash drive or other portable storage device. However, medical records can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars to obtain, and so for this reason, there is a U.S. law called the HI-TECH Act that makes obtaining medical records more affordable for patients.
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act (42 U.S.C. § 17935(e)) provides a way for patients to obtain their medical records in a more affordable fashion, as opposed to the copy and mail method that most facilities used in the past. The Act provides that patients shall have a right to get their medical records in an electronic format and that the providing facility can only charge their actual labor cost in providing the records. Prior to the HITECH Act, facilities could charge retrieval fees, mailing fees, and even a per page copy fee that could reach into the thousands of dollars for lengthy records.
However, a recent decision in Ciox Health, LLC v. Alex Azar, et. al. held that the fee limitation contained in the HI-TECH Act was unlawful. Essentially, the District Court held that the HI-TECH Act can’t be used to have records sent to a third party, i.e. your attorney. But, the Act may still be used by individuals to have records sent to themselves. To be valid under the HI-TECH Act, the patient must request the records themselves AND have the records sent directly to themselves, as opposed to being sent to an attorney.
Here is a sample HI-TECH Records Request that you can use to get your medical records from your healthcare providers.
If you choose to hire a personal injury attorney to handle your case, they can request your records for you, although it may be more expensive than obtaining them yourself. In order to do so, your attorney will likely have you sign a HIPPA release or specific power of attorney that grants them the legal authority to retrieve medical records on your behalf. Most personal injury attorneys will pay for your records up front and then deduct the expenses out of any settlement you might receive from your case.
Obtaining your medical records can be a complicated task, but an experienced personal injury attorney like Bethany L. Schneider of Schneider Injury Law can help you understand all of your rights when it comes to obtaining your medical records.
If you have questions or concerns on obtaining your medical records from a medical professional for a personal injury case, please contact Schneider Injury Law at (404) 800-3060, or e-mail Bethany directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.