Imagine your loved one, a parent or other close relative, has been injured or killed while living in a nursing home. Further imagine that the nursing home is liable for the injury, due to negligence on behalf of the staff. In a case like that, medical records for your loved one will be crucial in establishing your case, but how can you get evidence from someone you intend to sue? This is a dilemma many face and, fortunately, there are remedies that make this situation less awkward, including hiring our nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys in Los Angeles.
The Law Compels Nursing Homes to Respond
Federal law dictates how nursing homes conduct business in relation to their patients’ care, so everything must be documented in a particular way. According to these regulations, nursing homes are required to maintain accurate records for each patient, including medical treatments. They must also make that information available to their patients and authorized representatives of the patients upon request.
This might make it seem that obtaining records from a nursing home is a straightforward process, but it can become a complex matter. When a patient becomes disabled or passes away, a number of privacy laws and probate rules can complicate matters, forcing the patient’s family to involve the courts, just to get their hands on the records. When this occurs, the court usually won’t stop with ordering the nursing home to simply produce a copy of the patient’s medical records. The court order may also demand that the nursing home also relinquish letters, memos, photographs, and any other documentation pertaining to that particular patient.
Negligence Cases Further Complicate Matters
In circumstances that may lead to litigation, the family of the patient is urged to obtain the patient’s records as soon as possible. It’s preferable to get a copy of the records, prior to notifying the nursing home of your intent to pursue legal action. Some personal injury lawyers have reported that the copies of records released to the family often differ from those released to the family’s attorney.
In some cases, entries have either been omitted or added, depending on the specific circumstances of the situation. This is usually done to convince the lawyer that the care given was better than that which was actually given. When discrepancies like this are pointed out to nursing home managers, they’re more likely to participate in settlement negotiations.
Getting to that point, however, is a daunting task, especially when faced with the HIPPA privacy regulations. While the rules can seem to aid the nursing facility in delaying the turning over of medical records, the privacy rules also work for the patients and their families. In addition to guaranteeing authorized family members access to medical records, they have the right to physically inspect the nursing home’s full file of records on the particular patient. This means the family has a right to see all information pertaining to the day to day care of the patient in addition to records of medical treatment and care. essentially, the nursing home is required to make every piece of documentation with that patient’s name available to the family.
Regarding the request of patient records, there are a number of suggestions that authorized representatives should follow. These tips should be adhered to, regardless of the reason for requesting the patient’s files. Following these suggestions will make it easier to maintain documentation on your requests for the records, as well as maintaining an accurate record of your loved one’s situation in the facility.
First, it’s advised that the nursing home staff not be told the reason for the records request. You’re under no obligation to explain your motives.
Keep a copy of all records requests and submit each request via U.S. mail with a return receipt. Other methods may be used, as long as there is a record of the facility accepting the records request.
Again, it’s stressed that you should request the records as soon as possible. The first time you suspect you may have a need for them would be the best time to request the records.
Your status as an authorized representative of the patient is established on the contract with the facility. Keep a copy of that as proof and store it along with your record requests.
Finally, always request a complete copy of the patient’s records and ensure that you have received everything.