Friday, March 16, 2012

Medical Records in a Florida Personal Injury Lawsuit

Once a Florida personal injury lawsuit which has been filed based upon claims of negligence, including situations involving medical malpractice and motor vehicle accidents, it is understandable that may clients become frustrated because their case is not progressing at a face paced. One of the main explanations of why personal injury or medical malpractice lawsuits are so lengthy is due to the time it takes to gather all of the medical records and bills. Many clients believe that obtaining copies of their personal medical records or bills is a simple process. But on the contrary, procuring this information can be a complicated and time-consuming procedure because of the various issues that could arise during the course of the litigation. Often matters relating to confidentiality laws, incomplete medical histories or determining whether or not expert testimony will need to be obtained will have an impact on the time it takes to end a lawsuit. Further, not only is the plaintiff’s attorney interested in reviewing the medical records and bills, but also the opposing party, including insurance companies. For that matter, medical records and bills are the substances in a personal injury, medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit because this information is the foundation of what is needed to assess the value of any possible award of damages.

Thus it is important that for clients to realize that the release of their medical records is controlled by federal and state laws. In 1996, the federal government tightened medical confidentiality regulation with the passage of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). Basically, among other provisions under the Act, a patient must consent to the release of their medical records to third-parties. Medical treatment providers such as hospitals, primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, chiropractors and other healthcare providers must abide by this and Florida medical confidentiality laws, or otherwise faces harsh penalties if they disclose an individual’s medical records without their prior authorization. Also, when dealing with hospitals and institutions such as a nursing home, correctional center or jail, requests must be sent to an official authorized to release the client’s medical records. Further, the official, who is commonly known as the Custodian of Records, must certify to the authenticity of the patient’s record, particularly when the record is involved in a lawsuit.

Accordingly, our Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorneys makes it a priority to gather all medical records and bills which relate to the lawsuit and that our clients have signed the appropriate forms that complies with HIPPA regulations.  Most medical treatment providers possess their own release of medical information forms in which they are required to use, but it is important that a careful review of those documents be thoroughly examined by an attorney to ensure HIPPA compliance.

Also, we recommend that clients release a comprehensive account of their medical histories to all medical treating sources to the best of their ability and to make a personal record that also provide details such as the diagnosis, who treated the client, medications and dates and times of healthcare visits. The purpose of having a well- organized medical history is to prevent the possibility of any pre-existing medical complications of becoming a major issue in a lawsuit. The Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers at our firm know all too well the tactics the defendants will use as a measure to bar or reduce a client’s claim for damages. Therefore, if you have recently experienced an accident that you believe was due to the negligence of another person and are wishing to file a lawsuit, you should discuss with an attorney any medical conditions that existed prior to your accident, along with any prior lawsuits in which you were involved. Failing to disclose this information could hurt your case.

Our Fort Lauderdale accident injury lawyers realize that a personal injury, wrongful death or medical malpractice lawsuit is a time-consuming process for our clients. But the importance of complete medical records and bills are so instrumental in a case that our attorneys want to safeguard our client’s legal interest and make certain that they receive fair compensation for the harm they have suffered. If you or a loved one has been recently involved in an accident, contact our office shortly to discuss your legal rights.

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