The Importance of Medical Records and Bills to Clients’ Cases and the Battle to Receive Them

Posted: March 8, 2016

At the Law Office of Martin L. Glink , whether we are filing a suit on behalf of a client who has been involved in a car accident or who has fallen victim to medical malpractice, our firm has to obtain medical records and bills on behalf of our clients.

Medical records and bills are crucial in every case because they can make or break a case. They are a means for attorneys to fact check their client’s case; recognize any red flags, which would hurt the client’s case; determine if the injury was likely caused by the defendant’s negligence; decide damages; prepare for expert review, etc.

For example, our firm is handling a delayed diagnosis of cancer case and we needed our potential expert to review our patient’s written records and CT scans. After our expert reviewed the medical records, he decided we had a meritorious case against the defendants and therefore, we could move forward and file suit. Had the doctor decided, after reviewing the records, that there was no case, we would likely not pursue any further action.

In a motor vehicle accident case, we obtain medical records and bills for the purpose of determining what injuries were caused by the accident, the severity of the injuries, the treatment sought for the injuries, the future treatment needed, the medical bills associated with this treatment, etc. If we get medical records and it shows that the patient had soft tissue injuries and they healed in a few months, and we are not approaching the statute of limitations, we would likely try to settle this case pre-suit because the damages would be fairly low and would likely fall within the defendant’s insurance’s policy limits.

We have another case in which a 28-year-old female suffered from a delayed diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) and we obtained her medical records and bills for the purposes of making a timeline of her care related to the MS; determining who was at fault for the delayed diagnosis; figuring out what type of experts we needed to consult with for her case and sign off on a 2-622 report; and eventually, we will have a life care planner review her medical records and bills to determine what future medical care she will need and the costs of it.

Often, we will instruct clients to try and obtain their own records because it saves them time and money. However, after we have met with clients, and signed their case, we will carefully instruct them on the HIPAA form (health information disclosure form), the language to use, the boxes to check and the relevant time period to request. Yet, clients are sometimes given the run around, only provided a small portion of their records, and/or they are told that their attorney will need to send in a form. But they’re not alone. Some health providers do not make it easy for patients or their attorneys to access their medical records and bills. Even when our firm orders new and updated medical records for our clients, it is often a battle of sending “urgent” faxes and daily follow-up phone calls, faxes, and emails to ensure that records are received. The battle can take months, which delays a client’s case. But the truth of the matter is, we cannot adequately start a case without the foundation of medical records and bills.

The New York Times recently reported that the Obama administration is knocking down barriers, which make it difficult for patients to get access to their own medical records, and is forcing doctors and hospitals, in most cases, to provide patients with their records within 30 days of receiving a request. The new guidelines issued at the beginning of 2016, indicate that doctors and hospitals cannot require patients to a state a reason for requesting their records and cannot deny access out of concern that the information might upset patients.

Whether or not this will make an impact has yet to be seen, but barriers not only need to be torn down for patients, but also for attorneys who are attempting to get access to their clients’ records in a timely manner to adequately determine if a cases exists or not. If you feel a loved one has been injured, it is important that you contact a qualified personal injury attorney as soon as possible.  Contact the Law Office of Martin L. Glink today at 847-394-4900.