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Personal Injury 101: Your Medical History

Medical Records in a Personal Injury Case

Obtaining medical records and thoroughly reviewing a client’s medical history are important parts of the legal process in a personal injury case.  You may wonder why it is necessary to review the medical records that were generated years before the accident occurred.  Your medical history will be something the insurance company may use to try to discredit your injuries, and a skilled injury lawyer will want to have all the information well in advance to argue against that attempt.

What Are Medical Records?

Medical records are the chart notes and reports generated by your health care providers.  They document your medical complaints, diagnoses, tests ordered, and treatment details.  Over time, the accumulation of these medical records becomes your comprehensive medical history.  The types of medical records usually included in your history may include:

  • Ambulance/EMT report
  • Emergency Department notes
  • Hospital admission records
  • Routine physical records
  • Standard office visit chart notes
  • Lab reports
  • Diagnostic imaging – films and reports (CT scans, MRIs, x-rays)

A full medical history will include all records related to each injury or condition that you have experienced – all doctor visits, the recommended treatment, the completed treatment, the prognosis, and the outcome, as well as any recommendation for future care, if applicable.  Your attorney will also want to obtain all medical bills related to any treatment you received associated with the injury that is the subject of your legal claim. 

Watch the YouTube video.  Below, a physician talks about the importance of taking a patient’s medical history.

Should I Sign a Medical Release for the Insurance Company?

Here is an area in which it is going to be prudent to have an attorney on your side, or to at least seek legal advice.  The insurance company is going to ask you to sign a medical release so that they can obtain your medical records.  When you have retained an experienced car accident lawyer, he or she will be the one ordering the records and only giving to the insurance company those records that are relevant to the case.  If you sign a blanket authorization and return it to the insurance company, they will have access to all sorts of personal medical information.  This is not only a serious privacy concern, but they will comb over everything to find reasons not to pay fairly on your claim.

What is a Pre-Existing Condition?

The term “pre-existing condition” is heard frequently with regard to health insurance eligibility.  A pre-existing condition or pre-existing injury can also be a factor in personal injury cases.  The insurance company will be entitled to review medical records of a preexisting injury or condition that relates to any part of your body that was injured in the incident that is the subject of your legal claim.  A skilled lawyer will ensure that the insurance company is not provided any records that are not relevant to the case.  

What if I Have a Pre-Existing Condition or Injury?

Even if you have experienced an injury or pain to the same part of your body injured in the subject incident, that does not mean you will not be able to recover compensation for your new injury.  If the symptoms only appear in your chart years ago and never return, that information is essentially irrelevant.  If they appear in your medical records shortly before the subject incident, your attorney will want to analyze several factors, including the severity of the prior symptoms versus how they presented after the subject incident.  Additionally, a medical expert can present evidence that a previously injured body part is often more susceptible to more serious problems after a traumatic event such as a car accident. 

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer

Hello and thank you for reading.  I am Ed Smith, a personal injury lawyer in Sacramento, California.  Negligent driving is the cause of most automobile accidents.  If someone else’s carelessness has resulted in you or a loved one being injured in a car crash, my team can provide compassionate, free, and friendly legal advice.  Contact us at (916) 921-6400, or toll-free from outside the Sacramento area at (800) 404-5400.  Or you may use the electronic contact form on our website.

Photo Attribution: https://pixabay.com/photos/medical-record-health-patient-form-781422/

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