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Medical Records in a Car Accident

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January 05, 2018
Edward Smith


Medical Records in a Car Accident

I’m Ed Smith, a car accident lawyer in Sacramento. Medical records are an essential part of your car accident claim. A lack of medical documentation can affect the outcome. Conversely, information about old injuries or conditions can be used to mitigate the seriousness of current problems. Let’s look at what medical records are, why they are necessary, and how they are used by insurance companies.

Hospital/Doctor Visits After a Car Crash

According to Fortune Magazine, forty thousand people died from car accidents in 2016. While the number of people injured is unknown, approximately 4.6 million people sought medical attention for severe injuries after a car accident 2016. The total calculated cost of motor vehicle accidents is estimated at $432 billion for 2016 alone.

What Are Medical Records?

Your medical records document the signs and symptoms of a particular event, such as a car accident injury. Clinical data is used to document the patient’s condition and is recorded. This includes a physical examination by a health care professional, including vital signs and the patient’s complaints. Patient examination and lab test results, and radiographic data are also recorded. After a complete history and physical exam, the physician will enter his or her impressions and provide a treatment plan. Medications are noted, and if necessary, a specialist recommendation is given. The patient is usually instructed to return in a specific time frame.

Requests for Medical Records

After an accident, an insurance adjuster may request the injured party’s medical records. This is done so the insurer can verify the injury claim and see if the person’s complaints are linked to the accident. Medical record requests should be limited to those records that pertain to the accident.

The insurer may ask your permission to contact the doctor or hospital on your behalf. It is not a good idea to approve this. Instead, it is better to contact your doctor and request that pertinent records be sent. Before you do this, though, discussing the request with your legal representative is essential. If a broad medical record request is authorized, the insurer may try to say that the injuries are not new or related to the accident and refuse to pay.

Who Can Authorize Medical Record Release?

The insurance company needs your approval to obtain medical records from your healthcare professional. When you receive the request, discussing this with your car accident lawyer is essential. Sometimes, your medical records may be subpoenaed, such as during a trial.

The Importance of Medical Records

One of the mistakes an accident victim makes is to fail to see a doctor or go to the emergency room after an accident. Usually, this does not happen when the victim is seriously injured. However, even fewer injuries can cause time away from work or require medical attention later.

Delayed Onset of Injuries

Many injuries, such as cervical strain and sprain, are not evident at the time of the accident. It is essential to be examined by a doctor for your own safety. For example, when an older person receives a minor head bump in an accident, they may think it’s unimportant to go to the hospital. However, an older individual can develop a subdural hematoma up to 30 days later. A medical exam will alert your doctor for complaints such as headaches a week or more later.

When Should Medical Records Be Released?

Since medical records are used to get a fair picture of your injury and its impact, releasing them too soon may give an incomplete picture. Aside from late-developing symptoms, it is impossible to show if the doctor’s treatment plan was successful. Additional therapy and, in some cases, surgery may be needed.

Settling a Claim Too Soon

While many accident victims want to put the event behind them, settling before treatment is finished may be detrimental. When you settle a claim, you will be asked to sign a paper saying that you waive any future claims in the accident. You won’t be reimbursed if you need additional medical care after the waiver is signed and settlement accepted. Follow your car accident attorney’s advice in such matters.

Sacramento Car Accident Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a car accident lawyer in Sacramento. In a car accident, you may be inundated by requests from insurers and attorneys for the other person involved. A personal injury lawyer can provide the experienced help you need. Contact me at (916) 921-6400 in and around Sacramento and (800) 404-5400 out of the area for friendly and free advice. You can contact me online too.

I’ve been representing clients in Sacramento and Northern California for 35 years. During that time, I’ve worked to obtain just compensation in various cases, from traumatic head injuries to wrongful death.

I am listed as a California member of the Million Dollar Forum. This forum includes only those trial attorneys who have won $1 million or more for clients. 

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Check out my settlements and verdicts page.

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