After an accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance company may send you a packet containing several documents. You will need to fill out these documents prior to initiating an insurance settlement. Among these documents, you will find a medical release form. This form authorizes the at-fault driver’s insurance to access your medical history. The requested dates of access will be specified within the document. Insurance companies must have a signed document declaring your release of medical records. This is because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). This act protects you from the unauthorized release of your private medical records.
Most insurance companies will request access to your medical records dating anywhere from 5-10 years prior to your auto accident. However, insurance companies only need access to medical records relevant to your accident. In order to receive an insurance settlement, you do not need to give an insurance company access to all of your personal medical records. If you grant the insurance company access to your medical records, the insurance adjuster will use it against you.
In the state of Utah, you must sign this form before you can receive coverage through Personal Injury Protection (PIP). However, you can alter the dates of access granted on the form; you should not sign the medical release form until you do so. Once access to your medical history is granted to your insurance company, they cannot give your medical records to the at-fault driver’s insurance.
The reason insurance companies want excessive access to your medical history is so they can use it to reduce your settlement. Insurance adjusters may try and argue that old injuries largely contributed to the injuries you sustained from the car accident, in an attempt to reduce your case value.
Adjusters will also attempt to pinpoint any inconsistencies in your injury reporting after your accident. After an auto accident it may take several days, or even weeks, before symptoms of injuries begin to appear. Furthermore, you may not feel any pain until the day after the accident; once adrenaline is no longer pumping through your body. As a result, adjusters will regard your statements as unreliable. Adjusters may attempt to argue that the origin of your injuries cannot be proven if you report your injuries even days after an accident. This can severely damage your claim value.
Insurance companies will also review the number of doctor visits you had prior to the accident. The more frequently you visited your doctor, the more likely it is the adjuster will claim that you are ‘medically frail’. Meaning you were at greater risk of developing your injuries and therefore, your injuries didn’t weren’t solely caused by their insured’s negligent actions. This can also reduce the value of your claim.