A common technique used by insurance companies to gain advantage over an accident victim is to get the injured person to sign a Medical Authorization.
When someone is in an automobile accident, one of first things that the insurance company does is send out an innocent looking letter that says something like this:
Dear Mr. Hill;
Enclosed you will find a medial authorization form which you must sign and return to us as quickly as possible. This will allow us to obtain medical records from your treating health care providers and medical bills incurred as a result of your accident with our insured so we may evaluate your claim in a timely fashion. A return envelope is enclosed.
Your Insurance Adjuster
Signing this authorization opens the door for the insurance company to snoop through your entire medical history looking for information to use against you.
All of your records, including matters completely unrelated to the injury you suffered, are now subject to their review and perusal. For example, anything you have ever seen a doctor for (including therapy, OB-GYN matters, counseling, treatment, sexual health issues, or anything else) becomes fully accessible by the insurance company. In fact, they intentionally word the authorization to give them the ability to obtain “any and all”of your medical records.
The response of many people when they hear this is to say “I have nothing to hide”. What they do not understand is that there are many things the insurance company can do with these records to gain advantage, and thus, reduce the value of your claim.
For example, if the person has a history of health issues, the insurance company can use the unrelated records to portray the injured person as “damaged goods”, arguing that the new injury is not that big a deal in light of what they were already dealing with and that therefore the insurance company should not have to pay much compensation.
Another technique the insurance company may use is to try to use the records to portray the person as having an alternativelife style not worthy of compensation. They know that if even one person on the jury is “turned off” by what they hear about a person’s past, the whole case can be lost.
The insurance company can also use the records to “ambush” the victim in court by confronting him with documents from a doctor visit 20 years earlier that he completely forgot about. At trial, they might say: “Mr. Smith, you never mentioned that you had seen a doctor while you were away at camp when you were 15 years old. Are you trying to hide something from the jury? If you are not telling us about that, what else are you not telling us about?”
When we are hired by an injury victim, one of the first things we can do is revoke any authorizations our client had previously given the insurance carrier. This puts a stop to them fishing around in your past history.
We provide the insurance company with the history and prior medical records that are related to the claim at hand, but protect you from the release of matters that have nothing to do with your case to the extent that the Rules of Civil Procedure allow. (Note that people who try dealing with the insurance company themselves hear only the insurance companies’ instructions that they “must” sign the medical authorization (which is not accurate) – thus leaving themselves exposed and unprotected).
There is no legal obligation to sign a medical authorization, (absent unique circumstances) and an accident victim should refuse to do so.
Please remember that the “friendly” insurance adjuster has a hidden agenda that involves trying to find ways to defeat or minimize every claim. Anyone who gets hurt should never sign anything without first having it reviewed by an attorney they trust.
If you or a loved one have been hurt, call attorney Bruce A. Blaylock. You can reach us at 301-951-1800.