Medical Records – Your Health, Your Rights

When an individual has been injured in an accident, the insurance company for the at-fault party is entitled to review the injured indivdual’s accident-related medical records to aid their evaluation of the injured party’s injury claim.

However, it is a frequent practice by defense lawyers and the insurance companies to attempt to have the injured individual’s sign blanket medical release authorizations, allowing the insurance companies access to all of of the indivdual’s medical information, whether or not their medical treatment is accident-related or not. Many times insurance companies will attempt to have injured individuals sign these blanket releases immediately after an accident.

This practice is wrong. An individual’s medical history is private. The United States Congress has said so in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

In Colorado, there have been recent rulings by the Colorado Supreme Court enforcing the non-disclosure of an injured individual’s non-incident related medical records. The most recent decision, Alcon v. Spicer, 113 P.3d, 735 (Colo. 2005)., reaffirmed that an injured person making a claim for personal injuries does not waive their physician-patient privilege (ie: their right to keep their medical information private between themselves and their doctor) to all medical records simply by making generic claims for personal injuries in a lawsuit. Id. at 737. The Colorado Supreme Court held that an injured indivdual must only disclose those medical records relating “to the cause and extent of the injuries and damages allegedly sustained as a result of the defendant’s claimed negligence.” Id.

What this means for consumers is that they should carefully protect their personal medical information and not sign blanket medical release authorization for an insurance company after being involved in an accident. The insurance company or at-fault party is only entitled to review medical records relating to the injuries the individual claims are related to the accident.