If you have been injured in an accident, you are likely to come into contact with an insurance company at some point afterward. However, insurance adjusters are unlikely to have your best interest at heart when they interact with you. Of course, it’s their job to protect the interests of the company that employs them, and if insurance companies paid out every claim they received every time, the business would not be profitable. However, if you are aware of this, you can take steps to protect your own interests.
In general, it is never a good idea to sign anything an insurance company gives you in the wake of an accident without consulting a lawyer first. Many of these documents are written to have consequences that you might not have intended. If you sign a release, you are likely to be held to the terms no matter what. For that reason, you should be very clear about what a document is and what it allows, before you decide whether or not to sign it.
If you or a loved one has been injured and is considering signing a medical authorization form from an insurance company, call Zinda Law Group today for a free case consultation.
What are insurance medical authorization forms used for?
If you have been involved in an accident, the at-fault party’s insurance company may ask you to sign a medical authorization form. This form means that you consent to this insurance company receiving your medical records. The insurance agent you are communicating with may make it sound like he needs these records in order to determine the extent of your injuries and pay you what you are owed, but you should be careful when presented with this option.
While knowledge of your injuries is essential to receiving compensation in an accident, the opposing party’s insurance company does not want to pay you, or at least wants to pay you as little as possible. The request for medical records is not an altruistic one, but is presented because the insurance company wants to be able to deny or reduce your claim based on the information in them.
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Should You Sign a Medical Authorization Form?
In general, you should never sign a medical authorization form. Allowing an opposing insurance company access to all of your medical records can only give them more ammunition to damage your claim. If you are ever presented with something to sign by an insurance company, you should contact your lawyer immediately.
Your lawyer will be able to read through the entirety of an agreement and tell you what it means. In general, these agreements are intended to be difficult to understand and tedious to read because insurance companies do not want you to realize how much you are giving up by agreeing to their terms. Having an attorney explain exactly what the consequences of entering into these agreements will be allows you to proceed with a clear idea of your options.
The Impact of Medical History on Your Claim
One of the reasons an insurance company wants your medical records is to use episodes from your previous medical history to dispute the idea that your injury was caused by the accident in your current claim. In a personal injury case, it is essential to prove that the injury you are seeking compensation for was caused by the accident for which the defendant party is at fault. Using medical history, an insurance company may try to rebut that claim.
For example, if you injure your back in a car accident and seek compensation, but you release your medical records to the insurance company, they will be able to use your medical history to dispute your injury by pointing to any possible other explanation for your back injury that excludes the car accident. If you went to the doctor five years ago and mentioned in passing that your back hurt, or if you received treatment for a minor injury last year, all of that will be on display for the insurance company to use to dispute the idea that you are entitled to compensation for your accident and the injuries you sustained.
Understanding Healthcare Privacy Laws
Your healthcare information is very sensitive. You may not want an insurance entity to have access to it for reasons entirely separate from your claim, but if you sign a medical authorization form, they will be able to see all records, even ones that have nothing to do with your current injury.
In addition to arguing about your medical history in order to dispute your injuries, an insurance company may also attempt to cast you in a bad light using any confidential information you may find embarrassing or not want to be exposed, such as sexual health history or substance abuse. Even if these things are not present in your medical history, an insurance adjuster with access to your medical records could argue that there is evidence of something like alcohol abuse just based on what medical records are available.
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Can Insurance Companies Restrict What They See?
The insurance company only needs the medical records relevant to your insurance claim in order to process it. However, instead of restricting what they will look at to just those records, most medical authorization forms instead contain extremely broad language that allows them to look at a wide range of medical history.
Instead of signing a medical authorization form for an insurance company, speak with your personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to determine what medical records are necessary for pursuing a claim, and can make only those records available to the insurance company.
Should I Sign a Medical Release for My Insurance Adjuster?
There is one case in which it may be beneficial to sign a medical release and authorization form, and that is for your own insurance company. It is likely you would be required to do this to help your insurance company evaluate your claim. However, even in this case, you should consult a lawyer and make sure you are aware of all the consequences of signing the form before you agree to it.
Cases You Never Want to Sign a Medical Release and Authorization Form
It is never a good idea to sign a medical release form without consulting a lawyer first. However, you should really be on guard against signing a medical authorization form:
- If you are told it is the only way you will be able to pursue your claim or receive compensation. That isn’t true, and you do not have to release this information to the insurance company if you do not want to.
- If you are told that the purpose of this information is to make your claim stronger. The insurance company that will be responsible for compensating you for your injury will never want your claim to be stronger; they want to pay you as little as possible. That is the point of their business.
- If you are told that the medical release form will not apply to all of your medical records or that it can be applied selectively. This may be true, but in most cases the languages of insurance forms are overly broad, not narrow. Make sure a lawyer has read through the agreement and explained to you what permissions you would actually be giving an insurance company before you sign the form, to make sure that they are not making it seem as though there would be different consequences than there actually would be.
What is the Meaning of HIPAA?
Without your written consent, your healthcare information is private and cannot be given to anyone except who you chose to share information with. Healthcare privacy is governed by HIPPA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. You are not required to share this healthcare information with an insurance provider which is not your own, although you may have to share select medical records about the specific injury in the claim to pursue compensation.
Why is This So Serious?
Any exchange of medical information is extremely serious. You should only allow those you trust, such as your healthcare providers, to receive your confidential medical information—that is why the laws around healthcare information privacy exist.
In this case, signing a healthcare release form allows control over your personal medical history and records to be passed to an entity which you do not trust and does not have your best interest at heart—an insurance company trying to deny your claim. The insurance company does not want you to succeed, and wants you to sign over your medical records to be another weapon in their arsenal of methods they can use to try and refuse your claim. Don’t let your sensitive medical information be used against you.
Is It Too Late to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
It is always a good idea to get a lawyer as soon as possible if you are pursuing a personal injury claim. However, even if you are already in discussions with insurance companies, you can still hire a car accident lawyer. Speaking with a lawyer about your case at this stage would still be beneficial, because a lawyer will be able to give you a clearer picture of all of your legal options and discuss the consequences of signing anything with you before you do it.
Get Help From the Lawyers at Zinda Law Group Today
Pursuing a personal injury claim from an insurance company can feel extremely stressful, especially learning about scenarios like this, when insurance companies try to convince you to surrender your private medical history to use it against you in a claim. If it feels as though there is no one on your side to help you, contact Zinda Law Group today for a free case consultation.
The personal injury lawyers at Zinda Law Group have secured compensation for numerous clients. If you are interacting with an insurance company, you know that the company has many lawyers, and being without legal representation yourself could put you at a disadvantage, especially in situations such as this where an insurance company will not make their motivations clear when they try to influence you to agree to a binding legal decision. If the lawyers at Zinda Law Group are representing you, you will have someone on your side with your best interests at heart.
Also, Zinda Law Group operates on a contingency fee agreement, which means that you will only pay if you receive a settlement. If you don’t, then you pay nothing, eliminating any risk that comes with having legal representation. If you or a loved one has been injured and you are dealing with insurance companies, contact Zinda Law Group today.