After you have been injured in an accident that resulted from the negligent or careless driving behavior of another driver, his or her insurance company will call you and will send you several documents. In addition to a property settlement offer for the property damage your vehicle sustained, the insurance company is also likely to send you a form called a release of liability and claims along with a medical authorization release. If you sign the release of liability and claims, you will not be able to pursue the insurance company for damages for your injuries, so you should not sign this form. Some people do not understand that they should also not sign the medical authorization form.
The medical authorization release form lets the insurance company search through your personal medical records. In a personal injury case, the main factor that will determine how much your claim is worth is your medical treatment and your injuries. While the insurance company of the person who was at fault in an accident is generally responsible for compensating the injured victims for their pain and suffering, lost income, medical bills and other related losses, insurance companies are motivated to minimize their losses. Doing so often means trying to avoid payment altogether or to significantly reduce the settlement amount. There are several reasons why a company is likely to try to get you to sign a medical authorization release, potentially hurting the value of your claim.
Your past medical history
Medical authorization release forms used by insurance companies are often very broad, allowing the company to access your past medical records. This means that they can go digging through your medical history before your accident happened.
The reason why an insurance company wants the ability to do this is so they can blame at least part of your injuries on events that happened in your past. For example, if you suffered a traumatic brain injury in your wreck, the insurance company may try to dispute their insured’s liability for causing it if you ever went to see your doctor after playing football or after a fall in which you hit your head.
All notes written by your doctor
The insurance company is also likely to want your doctor’s notes. The reason that insurance companies want to review doctors’ notes is so that they can try to find anything you might have said that contradicts the extent or type of your injuries.
For example, whiplash injuries often do not show symptoms for hours or even days following an injury accident. If you did not mention the stiffness, headaches and shooting pains that can be associated with whiplash injuries when you went to the emergency room, the insurance company will likely try to use the doctor’s notes to claim that you didn’t incur your injuries in your accident. An experienced personal injury attorney will instead work to show how these injuries arose in the accident in order to combat the tactics the insurance company may attempt to use.
How often you’ve gone to the doctor in the past
If you have been in poor health and you have other issues that require you to see your doctor regularly, the insurance company might try to say that you are an eggshell plaintiff. What this means is that the insurance company would try to argue that your claim is less valuable because you were already fragile prior to your accident.
It is important that you never agree to sign a document for an insurance company without discussing it with your personal injury attorney. Your lawyer is likely to instead want to review your records and then release only the ones that directly relate to your injury accident. If you receive documents that the at-fault driver’s insurance company wants you to sign, it is a good idea to consult with your personal injury attorney before doing so.
Need more information? Speak to our Los Angeles personal injury law firm today.