In the aftermath of an accident, everything that happened may feel like only a blur. Of course, your most immediate concern is the safety of all involved and making sure medical treatment is received right away.
In the hours and days that follow, though, there are a number of additional questions and concerns that come up: Who was at fault? Who is going to pay for the damages? Should I sign the forms that the insurance company sent?
If an insurance company has sent you a records release form after an accident, don’t sign it before you have consulted with a lawyer. Often, while these release forms may seem simple or necessary, there may be more involved than you might initially think.
What a Records Release Form Is
So what is a records release form? Sometimes referred to as a “medical release form” or “medical authorization form,” a records release form is a document that gives an insurance company the authorization to access your medical records.
Under the federal Healthcare Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), you have rights over the sharing of your health information, whether in electronic, written, or oral form. In order for a person or entity to access your private health information, you would need to grant access by signing a release form.
Information protected under HIPAA federal law includes:
- Information a healthcare provider has added to your medical record
- Conversations about your treatment between your doctor and others
- Billing and personal information recorded at a clinic or healthcare facility
However, while most healthcare providers and health plans must follow HIPAA laws, many organizations may access your health information but are not subject to HIPAA laws.
These organizations include:
- Life insurers
- Workers’ compensation carriers
- Schools and school districts
- State, municipal, and law enforcement agencies
Insurance companies may put pressure on you, telling you that signing this form is necessary before you can recover any compensation for your losses. These pressure tactics are often done in the hopes that you will sign documents in a rush, without knowing your legal rights or what authorization you are providing.
Know Your Rights
It is important to know and understand your legal rights after an accident, including the terms outlined in your insurance policy. A free consultation with a personal injury lawyer can help you better understand your rights.
Before signing anything an insurance company sends you, make sure you understand what information they actually need, and what information they do not require.
Information the insurance company may need
Naturally, in order to process payment for an injury claim, an insurance company will need to have some access to your medical information.
Medical information an insurance company may need includes:
- Hospital admission and discharge records
- Medical bills for ambulatory, acute, and long-term care
- X-rays and other medical documentation of injuries
- Documentation of prescribed and recommended treatment
Of course, any information provided to the insurance company should be limited to injuries related to the accident in the claim.
Information the insurance company does not need
Many insurance companies use a very broad release form that provides them with more access than is necessary.
Be cautious of any release forms that provide the following authorization:
- “Open-ended” access for an indefinite amount of time
- Medical records for injuries or treatments unrelated to the accident
- Details on pre-existing conditions or injuries
With too much access, the insurance company can look for records unrelated to the accident and then use these to undermine your case.
Adjusters can use this information in an attempt to deny payment or reduce your settlement amount. The insurance company may try to suggest that your injuries were not actually caused by the accident, that your condition is less severe than you claim, or that your injuries were caused by a pre-existing condition.
Working With a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
The truth of the matter is that, in most cases, the insurance company is not your friend. As a business, there is one goal in mind: making money. The more claims they can undervalue or outright deny, the more money kept in their pockets.
For most people, dealing with the ins and outs of a complex car accident claim is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. An insurance company can try to take advantage of your inexperience during a stressful situation in an attempt to devalue your claim or minimize your damages.
When you work with a lawyer, all correspondence and communication with the insurance company goes through your attorney. This means that the insurance company can no longer use pressure tactics or scare tactics to get their way.
When you work with a personal injury lawyer who has experience handling New Jersey car accident cases, you can be confident that he or she knows the applicable laws and regulations. Your lawyer can examine any request for information received by the insurance company to determine what information is necessary to be shared and what may be unnecessary or even damaging to your case.
Contact the Team at Judd Shaw Injury Law
At Judd Shaw Injury Law, we know that the aftermath of an accident can cause a lot of stress and confusion. We don’t want you to be left wondering about your rights after an accident.
As part of the Judd Shaw Way, we are committed to:
- Battling the insurance bullies on behalf of our clients
- Working the WOW for our clients
- Giving back to our communities through service, charity, and involvement
- Pursuing excellence each day to make a difference
We are proud to offer our clients quality representation while they focus on their recovery and their families. With a free, no-obligation consultation with our firm, you can get the answers and help you need after an accident.
Contact us at (866) 909-6894 or fill out our online form today to get started with your free consultation.
Content edited by personal injury attorney Judd Shaw. From the beginning, Judd established a set of Core Values laying out the pursuit for excellence in client service. He is a regular host of the Working The Wow podcast, with the belief that providing an exceptional client experience is just as important as delivering a quality service or product. You can find us in Red Bank and Tom‘s River, New Jersey.