After your car accident, you will quickly learn that few decisions regarding your claim for compensation with the negligent driver’s insurance company are easy. What appear to be straightforward requests can be based on ulterior motives designed to deny or reduce your claim. A request for you to sign a medical authorization for release of information may seem innocent. However, it is not, and you could seriously hurt the value of your claim by agreeing to sign this document.
What Is a Medical Release of Information Form?
A medical release of information form is a document that authorizes someone else—in this case the insurance company for the negligent driver—to obtain your medical records. It gives them the right to go directly to your treating physicians, hospital, physical therapist, and other medical care providers that you are seeing and request a copy of your medical records. While this may seem like a reasonable request, whether it is will depend on what type of release the insurance company is asking you to sign. Is it a blanket medical authorization or a more limited one requesting specific medical records for a certain period of time?
What the Insurance Company Is Looking for When Asking for a Medical Release
Unfortunately, insurance companies rarely ask accident victims to sign a limited medical authorization form. The insurance company will want you to sign a blanket medical release that gives them access to all of your medical records, including your past, current, and future records. The adjuster may claim that he needs them to process your claim, but here is what he is really looking for:
Past medical history. The adjuster wants to look at your prior medical records to see if you suffered another injury to the same part of the body injured in the crash. This is known as a preexisting injury. While it has no bearing on your current claim, the adjuster will use this information to try to argue that your injuries were caused by this incident in the past in an effort to deny or reduce your claim.
Doctor notes. A blanket authorization gives the insurance company access to your doctor’s notes. They are looking for anything you may have said that is inconsistent with the injuries you claim to have suffered. For example, if you did not experience symptoms of your injuries when you went to the emergency room after the crash, the adjuster could argue you were not really injured. However, this is not true since many symptoms of medical conditions will not develop for days or longer after the accident.
Prior doctor visits. The insurance adjuster wants to review your history of going to the doctor—even for conditions unrelated to your injuries. He will use this information to argue that you are an “eggshell” or fragile patient because of your frequent health issues and that this somehow makes your claim less valuable.
Why You Do Not Want to Sign a Blanket Medical Authorization Form
Signing the insurance company’s authorization form is never a good idea. Here’s why it could hurt your case:
Creating potential disputes. By giving the insurance company access to all your records, you are giving them ammunition—such as preexisting injuries or inconsistent statements—that they can use to dispute your claim. While an experienced car accident attorney can defeat many of these bogus arguments, you risk creating weaknesses in your case that force you to accept less in settlement.
Giving away your privacy. You are not only giving the insurance company more information than they are entitled to if you sign a blanket authorization form. You are also giving them private, potentially sensitive information regarding your medical condition that has absolutely no bearing on your car accident claim.
Providing information too soon. While some medical records will need to be provided to settle your claim, you want to wait to provide them—or to agree to a settlement—until you have completed your medical treatment and know your future prognosis. This is critical to ensure you receive the full compensation you deserve.
Take These Immediate Steps If You’re Asked to Sign a Medical Release Authorization
You should not sign an authorization for release of medical information—or any other document—without first having an experienced attorney review it. This is true whether the negligent driver’s or your own insurance company requests you sign this form. Instead, inform the adjuster that you will provide the medical authorization form to your attorney to review. Then let the attorney take over communications with the insurance adjuster for you.
If you were hurt in a car wreck, call us at 855.947.0707 to schedule your free case evaluation where we will be happy to discuss your legal options and review any release forms with you.