Immediately following an automobile crash, it’s imperative to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Not only will this ensure you receive necessary medical attention, but you’ll be maximizing your chances of recovering completely in addition to building the evidence your personal injury claim will need later.
While obtaining your medical records in West Virginia after a car accident isn’t particularly challenging, it’s important to understand your legal rights, how the process works, and how your records could be used in the event you file a car accident claim to seek compensation for your losses. Let’s start by taking a look at the laws pertaining to medical records in West Virginia.
Medical Record Laws in West Virginia
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) is a federal law that gives patients the right to see, get a copy, and amend their medical records. In addition to the federal law, each state has laws that pertain to patients’ rights as well. Those laws set the standards for doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers within the state. Medical professionals are required to abide by both federal and state laws.
In West Virginia, patients are entitled to the following:
- Seeing and copying their personal medical records
- Having information added to their medical record to make it more complete or accurate
- Filing a complaint
- Suing in state court for violations of your rights under state law
Medical records contain information like contact information, medical history, family health history, examination and test results, treatment received in a hospital, prescribed medications, doctor’s notes, and other information about things that affect your health or health care.
The Process for Obtaining Medical Records
According to West Virginia Code §16-29-1, residents of the state have a right to access their medical records. This means viewing them and receiving a copy. To ask for your medical records, you’ll need to find out the specific procedures your health care provider follows. Typically, there will be a form to fill out. Your provider can require you request the records in writing. The specific process should be outlined in your provider’s notice of privacy practices.
While different providers require different information, your request should contain the date of your request, your contact information, your birth date and medical record number, the dates of treatment or services you’re looking to access, and a full description of the information that you want. That description could include wanting the entire record or parts of the record, medical conditions you want information on, or specific test results. If you’re requesting information for someone else as their personal representative, you’ll want to make note of your relationship to them.
If your request is approved, your health care provider will arrange to send the documents to you or have you pick it up. Typically, you should know if your request was approved within 30 days. In some situations, like if your medical records are kept offsite, your physician has 60 days to respond to your request. There’s also the possibility of the physician receiving a 30-day extension, but they must provide you with a written explanation if that’s the case.
When a Provider Denies a Medical Record Request
In general, doctors are not allowed to deny you access to your medical records. In some situations, however, like with records related to psychiatric issues, psychological problems, or substance abuse, a denial can occur.
If your health care provider has decided to deny your request, they must tell you why in writing. You have the right to have their decision reviewed and file a complaint.
The Cost of Getting Your Medical Records
It’s likely your health care provider will charge you for copying your medical record; however, they are not allowed to charge you more than $0.75 per page. Additional fees may apply for postage if you requested to have the documents mailed. Your provider cannot charge you a fee if you’ve only requested to look at or read your medical record.
Amending Your Medical Records
Once you receive copies of your medical record, you may discover something you believe to be inaccurate or missing. If that’s the case, you have the right to amend the record. To do so, you must identify the part you believe to be inaccurate or incomplete and you have to name the health care provider that created the information.
It typically takes no more than 60 days after the doctor receives your request to receive an answer. If your amendment is accepted, the information will be added and you will receive written notification. If your request is denied, which can happen if the provider believes your record is accurate, they also have to let you know in writing. You can provide a written statement saying that you disagree with their decision, which will be added to your record; but you do not have the right to have someone else review the decision.
The Role of Medical Records in Car Accident Claims
There are a number of reasons as to why your medical record plays a crucial role for supporting your car accident claim. This primarily includes determining the value of your injuries and relating your injuries to the accident.
Determining how much compensation you’re owed after a wreck can be challenging, but it’s made easier if you have actual figures to pull from. Your medical record will have an account of the procedures, tests, and medications immediately following the accident, so your lawyer can determine the related costs. There will also be a record of treatments like physical therapy in the event the car accident had long-term effects.
In addition to helping you figure out what you’re owed, medical records help your attorney prove your injuries happened as a direct result of the accident. Sometimes, insurance companies will try to say a past medical condition is the cause of your pain, as opposed to the accident you were in. Your medical records can prove otherwise.
Work with an Experienced Law Firm
Located in Charleston, the lawyers at DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC are dedicated to helping injured victims recover after a traffic crash. We can use your medical records in conjunction with other evidence to determine just what you’re rightfully owed to help you get your life back in order.
Our attorneys have combined experience of over 150 years representing clients in car accident claims and a variety of other personal injury cases. We’re prepared to stand up for you. To learn more about your legal rights and options, schedule a free consultation with our firm today.