The Delaware workers’ compensation team at Silverman, McDonald & Friedman is dedicated to protecting their clients’ rights when they have been injured on the job. We offer free consultations in Wilmington, Seaford, and Newark to review your case and answer your questions.
During the course of filing your claim for workers’ compensation, depending on the nature of your injuries, you may be asked to release your medical records from your doctors to your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company.
Sometimes, people do not feel comfortable fulfilling this request as it feels like an invasion of their privacy to disclose all of their medical records for a new injury. However, your employer’s insurer wants to be able to examine your records to make sure the symptoms regarding your current workers’ compensation claim did not already exist.
What is a medical records release form?
Your doctors and other healthcare providers cannot release medical records to your employer or your employer’s insurance company without your consent. In order to release any of your medical information, your doctor will ask you to sign a document called a medical release form. Your doctor may have his/her own form, but if not, our lawyers can prepare the correct paperwork. If the employer or employer’s insurance company has a form, do not sign it without your attorney reviewing it first.
Your employer cannot ask for information about every part of your life; however, they can ask for information that relates directly to your Delaware workers’ compensation claim. Normally, the medical release form should limit the review to a specific period of time. The form may limit requests for information to specific medical conditions.
Hospitals, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, physical therapists, and any other healthcare providers treating you should request that the form be in writing, signed by the employee seeking work injury benefits, and dated.
What information is the insurance carrier looking for?
The insurance carrier or the lawyer for the employer isn’t your friend. They’re not looking to help you improve your health. They are looking for information that might:
- Show you can return to work.
- Show that your injuries aren’t as serious as you claim.
- Indicate that you had a pre-existing health condition.
- Limit your claim that the insurance company should pay your medical bills.
- Limit your claim that the insurance company should pay for your income loss.
- Indicate that your claim for workers’ compensation is fraudulent.
- Show that you are able to return back to work or could return to work if there are workplace restrictions, like not lifting more than 20 pounds.
The insurance companies will also want to know what treatments you will need, with which doctors, and how long before you reach maximum medical improvement or before you can return to work.
For example, if you have a broken hand, the insurance can seek information about any X-rays of your hand, surgeries on your hand, what types of tasks you can and cannot do with your hand, and what therapy you are using to improve the function of your hand. Insurance companies in workers’ compensation cases are not entitled to information about any diseases or conditions you have, any dental records, or other information that is not relevant to your claim.
The bottom line? The insurance company is trying to deny or limit your claim. Your best option is to speak with an experienced Delaware worker’s compensation lawyer before doing anything.
How private are my medical records?
Trying to decide what to disclose and what to withhold can be a delicate balancing act, because if you fail to disclose certain records, your claim may be denied. However, you may have some medical history that you would prefer to keep private. This situation presents a quandary, but you will be glad to know that there are federal laws in place to protect employee privacy with regard to sensitive medical records.
- The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that protects employee privacy. It places restrictions on how medical records are distributed; however, workers’ compensation claims are exempt from HIPAA rules. The HIPAA Privacy Rule permits the disclosure of health information for workers’ compensation purposes without individual authorization. Covered entities are required “reasonably to limit the amount of protected health information disclosed under 45 CFR 164.512(l) to the minimum necessary to accomplish the workers’ compensation purpose.”
- The Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Act and the Comprehensive Alcohol and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Act also protect employee privacy related to substance abuse treatment.
Your employer’s insurer’s access to your medical records related to your injuries is necessary in order to manage your workers’ compensation claim. However, this highlights the tension between an individual’s desire to maintain the privacy of their medical records and their employer’s need to access that information.
Long story short? Yes, you are required to release your medical records if requested when you file a workers’ compensation claim after a workplace injury. However, when you work with an experienced Delaware workers’ compensation attorney from Silverman, McDonald & Friedman, you can be confident we work to protect your rights and your privacy as much as possible while we fight for the compensation you deserve.
Contact a professional and dedicated personal injury attorney who knows how to help. Workers face many hazards as they do their jobs every day. At Silverman, McDonald & Friedman, we help our clients get the compensation that they deserve when they suffer an injury at work. Please call 302-888-2900 or fill out our contact form to make an appointment for a free consultation at our offices in Wilmington, Newark, or Seaford, Delaware today.
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Attorney Jeffrey S. Friedman joined Silverman, McDonald & Friedman in 2001. He graduated from Widener University School of Law, and is admitted to practice law in Delaware and Pennsylvania, and in several Federal Circuit courts. He areas of concentration include auto accident and workers’ compensation cases. Read more about Attorney Friedman here.