Eleanor Buckley comments on the need for your medical records to be disclosed in connection with a personal injury claim.
If you have been unfortunate enough to have been involved in an accident and suffered injuries as a result, it is often necessary for your Personal Injury Solicitor to obtain a full set of your medical records. Whilst this may seem intrusive, it is, in many cases, an essential part of pursuing your claim.
Medical records provide vital information to assist a medical expert in establishing a diagnosis, prognosis and all the potential future implications of your injuries. In addition, they may also assist the doctor to ascertain whether you had any pre-existing medical conditions or vulnerabilities which may have had an effect on the injuries you sustained in the accident concerned.
If your accident-related injuries have exacerbated or accelerated a pre-existing condition (commonly neck or back pain) this will probably affect the period of injury and recovery which is due to the accident.
Who will see my records??
Your Solicitor or Legal Representative will have first sight of your records and begin the task of sorting these into chronological order and reviewing them. They will then be sent directly to a medical expert to review in order to assist in the completion of their report which contains their opinion. The more information medical experts have, the more accurate and thorough the report will be. Once the expert has reviewed the records they will either return them to your Solicitor to destroy or alternatively, destroy them confidentially. Both Solicitors and medical experts are bound by the Data Protection Act 1998 and are unable to disclose any information about you to any other person or organisation unless you agree or are ordered to do so by a Court.
It may well be necessary however in certain situations to disclose medical records to your opponent’s Solicitor, insurers or Medical experts. Again, they are also bound by the Data Protection Act and will be unable to disclose/show the contents of your records to any other person and particularly those not involved in your case.
However, where there is particularly sensitive information (including the names of people you know or are related to) contained in your records that is not relevant to your claim, this may, if required by you a, be removed from your records by your GP surgery prior to being disclosed to any other person.
Your medical records will never become public in the course of a personal injury claim, so if your solicitor asks for them, there is usually a good reason for doing so which will be to your benefit. Any person or organisation that sees copies in connection with your claim will be constrained by legal privilege and the DPA from disclosing them to others not connected with the case.
Some clients authorise limited disclosure of records to their lawyers for understandable reasons. However, that usually leads to problems as doctors will say that they cannot provide accurate or clear reports without access to all the records.
Medical notes and records are not used in all personal injuries, often when the injuries are minor, so they will not be obtained in every case. If you have any doubts, consult your Personal Injury Solicitor directly.