Vermont Accident Victims & Insurance Traps: Part #2


Vermont Accident Victims
& Insurance Traps: Part #2

The Medical Release


By Steven A. Bredice, Esq., Board Certified Civil Trial Specialist

In our last post, we talked about tactics insurance companies use to limit their settlements with accident victims. They take a recorded statement from the victim, guiding the interview in a way that spins your story in the defendant’s favor. Another favorite tactic insurance companies use is to convince accident victims to sign a release, authorizing the insurer to directly obtain their medical records.

As everyone knows, medical records are confidential information. The Hippocratic Oath requires doctors to keep private everything they learn in the course of treating a patient. Medical confidentiality is also federal and state law. So why in the world would an insurance company ask a victim to sign a document requiring their doctors to provide their medical records to strangers?

Hidden Risks For Accident Victims

No matter how harmless the request might seem, there are important considerations you should think about:

  • Your records might contain information about previous injuries that are unrelated to the case, which the insurer could use to distort the effects of the accident or require expensive and time-consuming expert testimony to clarify.
  • Your records may also have sensitive and embarrassing personal information that they could use as leverage to convince you to accept less-than-fair compensation.
  • The information could be stored for future purposes or even shared with other insurance companies in a centralized database.

You will have to answer legitimate questions about whether pre-existing conditions are the true cause of your symptoms. The law does provide a mechanism for both sides to have access to that information. The best thing you can do is collect the relevant medical information yourself and then turn it over to the insurance company—with safeguards to protect your confidentiality and the integrity of your case.

If you do decide to sign a medical release, consider limiting it to certain providers and specific date ranges, and make sure the authorization expires, preferably in as short a time-period as possible but never longer than one year. Also, provide nothing without an agreement that it be kept confidential and destroyed at the end of the proceedings.

No matter how convincing the insurance company may seem when they ask about your medical records, make no mistake. Their fact-finding mission begins and ends with the goal of settling your claim on their terms, so if you are involved in an accident do not give up any documents without careful legal consideration and strict conditions about their use. As always, when in doubt, consult an experiencedVermont personal injury lawyer.

Learn more: Accident Victims & Insurance Traps #1: The Recorded Statement.

Steven A. Bredice