Using Medical Records in Your Car Accident Case
Clients sometimes wonder why at the Millar Law Firm we put such great emphasis on getting a complete and accurate copy of your medical records as quickly as possible following an accident. When you’ve been injured in an accident, your legal team needs to thoroughly understand your medical history. Why?
We know through our years of experience that insurance company lawyers will do everything within their power to paint your recent accident injuries to look like old ones. In nearly all injury claims, the insurance company and its lawyers will have an opportunity to examine your past medical records to compare them to the new injuries you just sustained. When we know your history – when we have examined it thoroughly, we can help prevent insurance adjusters and lawyers for the defense from trying to short change your settlement.
Insurance companies are in the business of making your accident settlement as small as possible. They will use whatever argument they can find to argue that your injury was pre-existing or not as severe as you claim.
In this article, we will discuss some of the ways we use your medical records to prove that the injuries you suffered in an accident were the result of the defendant’s negligence. We will answer some of the most common questions about how we obtain and use your medical records to prove your claim. We will show you a few of the underhanded ways some insurance company lawyers try to misrepresent your physical condition in order to save money. Finally, we will make a few suggestions about how you can select the best legal team to help you obtain justice. You’ll find these, and other questions answered below in this article.
- Can I even get my medical records? Aren’t they protected by some privacy law?
- How could x-rays taken in the past matter to my injury case?
- How could anybody deny that my knee injury wasn’t caused by a recent accident?
- I suffered a re-injury of my shoulder in a collision – can I sue for damages even if it IS pre-existing damage?
- What kind of lawyer do I need to help me recover from my injuries?
Can I even get my medical records? Aren’t they protected by some privacy law?
Your medical records are yours. However, there is a law that limits who else can look at them. The laws that protect access to your medical records is the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (commonly called HIPAA.) You have a right to receive a copy of your medical records from any medical provider. Sometimes there is a fee for making copies involved. The legal team at the Millar Law Firm can and will – with your authorization — make a request for and obtain your records.
As part of the investigation or litigation process, The Millar Law Firm, will obtain all relevant records including the diagnostic images including X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans. This means all diagnostic test reports, and any other documents if they are necessary to give us a complete picture of your medical history. Some of these things will be used to help prove your case:
- Diagnostic test results and reports
- Doctors’ findings about medical treatment required and recovery prognosis
- Ambulance and/or emergency room records
- Hospitalization records
- Surgical records, including reports by the anesthesiologist
- Medication records, including prescriptions and drugs supplied in the hospital
- Rehabilitation therapy records
- Psychological treatment records.
When you are considering a personal injury claim, it is important that you or your lawyers request your medical records as soon as possible after the accident.
How could X-rays taken in the past matter to my new injury claim?
It’s often a surprise to our clients that insurance company lawyers dredge up old injuries and try to blame them for your current pain or suffering. Placing the responsibility for your current condition on something that happened many years ago is a common tactic that often sways juries. To diffuse these tricks designed to disarm or diminish your claim, we use your medical records to prove that the symptoms you now have were not problematic in the years since that injury or accident. For example, if the dislocated knee you had in college heals and you are functioning normally before the accident, a defense argument that the old injury is responsible for your post-accident pain and new inability to walk should fail if your recent medical records and your family, friends and co-workers can be used to show that you were completely fine before your new injury.
How could anybody deny that my knee injury wasn’t caused by a recent accident?
Injuries that don’t leave outwardly visible marks, are injuries insurance companies frequently deny. Things like knee, shoulder, back, and neck pain are injuries that insurance company claims adjusters and lawyers will try to blame on pre-existing conditions, degeneration or the aging process. They will work to convince you and a jury that there is no evidence of a new injury. Your past medical records and medical expert testimony can make or break these arguments, which are frequently invented or exaggerated by the insurance company to hold down their costs.
I suffered a re-injury of my shoulder in a collision – can I sue for damages even if I have an old injury?
Insurance companies will often comb through your past medical history to look for excuses to deny or reduce your claim. A favorite tactic is to blame your current condition on an old injury. Fortunately, such unfair tactics can be overcome by showing that you had recovered from the prior injury or that it was no longer bothering you. Records of recent doctor’s visits and the testimony of friends, family, trainers and co-workers can be especially helpful in proving that before your recent injury, you were not having physical difficulties.
Amy’s Story: Overcoming a pre-existing injury argument
Amy is a champion water skier. She is a professional athlete who has been skiing since she was five. Today she trains 12-months out of every year. In order to earn a living, Amy gives lessons and coaches young competitive skiers. She also is under contract with a ski-boat manufacturing company and is featured in all their advertising and promotional materials.
Years ago, Amy was injured in a water skiing accident that tore her bicep and kept her out of training and competition for nearly five weeks. After this injury, Amy recovered fully and returned to competition.
Recently, Amy was injured in a car accident hen a pickup truck ran a stop sign. The same arm and shoulder were injured. Paramedics found her minutes after the accident bruised and in tears of pain.
Emergency room doctors discover that Amy’s right shoulder was dislocated and tendons were torn. They realign the shoulder and perform surgery. The newly torn tendon of her shoulder joins her re-torn bicep in the healing process tucked safely inside a pretty pink arm cast.
Before the accident, Amy was on schedule to participate in an upcoming national competition. Now, her sports medicine team assigns her a rigorous and very expensive physical therapy treatment schedule to help her regain full use of her arm in approximately eight months. This means Amy will be out of work for nearly a year.
Amy’s personal injury team calculates the lost wages Amy will suffer from the day the defendant’s car hit her. They also consider the cost to re-habilitate her injury and make her able to work again. All of her damages and the consequences can be factored into the settlement. Should she be unable to work again, the settlement or Jury request will reflect that loss as well.
Naturally, when the insurance company lawyers investigate the facts around Amy’s injury, they hope to blame the old (healed) injury and the wear and tear that training and competition put puts on her shoulder and upper arm for the damage. Her medical records as well as her primary care doctors, coaches and even fellow competitors, will demonstrate that Amy had a full recovery from her prior injury and was fine before the defendant’s car hit her.
For purposes of the claim, Amy was whole when the accident happened, and her post-accident deficiencies were fully the fault of the driver who hit her.
What kind of lawyer do I need to help me recover from my injuries?
Amy chose a personal injury law firm to help her with her claim. She understands that if you want to test a ski boat, you need to put a skier behind it. She understands that having the help of dedicated team whose only focus is her recovery is the only way to find justice.
A personal injury specialist spends all day, every day working with the tools Georgia law provides to keep the playing field level. Big insurance companies have loads of money to keep their own personal injury specialists on staff to handle claims. Those attorneys are well paid to keep up to date on personal injury law and to prepare to defeat you in court whatever it takes.
If you want to “do battle” with the big boys, you will also need a specialist. The more experience your own team has in handling personal injury claims, the better your chances are to see a fully satisfying settlement.
At the Millar Law Firm, we have a combined 65-years of experience in handling personal injury claims. That experience is not something a lawyer can find in law books. It’s the kind of experience that only tough time in the trenches can provide. There is no substitute for the education one earns through observation and participation in the practice of personal injury law.