Do I Have to Sign a Blank Medical Records Release Form in My Workers Compensation Case?
After you file a workers compensation claim in Virginia, you will likely receive a blank medical records release form from your employer or its insurance adjuster. A cover letter may even state that the insurance company has received notice of your claim and would like to review your medical records as part of the discovery process so that it can determine what workers comp benefits you’re owed.
Why Do Insurance Companies Send Blank Medical Records Release Forms?
Your employer’s workers compensation insurance carrier is looking for a reason to deny your claim. And preexisting conditions or prior injuries give the insurance adjuster a reason to deny the case initially – or to at least delay payment.
The insurance adjuster will use the blank form to obtain your medical records from every health care provider you’ve ever seen, even those that are not relevant to the claim or that discuss treatment from many years ago. If something shows up in those medical records that can serve as a basis for disputing your claim, the insurance adjuster will use it to deny payment and force you to go to hearing or possibly accept a low ball workers comp settlement offer.
Should I Sign the Blank Medical Release?
No. Do not sign the blank medical records release form. The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission will not require an injured employee to sign such a general medical release – and you shouldn’t.
The insurance company has a right to obtain relevant medical records in your case. Usually the Commission defines relevant medical records as those relating to treatment for the body parts injured in the work accident during the past five to ten years. Anything beyond that is objectionable.
If the insurance company sends a blank medical release, you should demand a specific release that complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and that is limited to relevant medical records. A HIPAA-compliant medical records release form is one that includes:
- A description of the information that will be disclosed and the purpose for the disclosure.
- The date upon which the disclosure form becomes invalid (usually 1 year after signing).
- The name of the person, business, or law firm to whom the disclosure should be made.
- The name of the doctor, facility, or health care provider authorized to disclose the information.
The release form must contain information for the specific doctor or facility authorized to release records at the time you sign it.
Further, you should not sign a medical records release form that authorizes the insurance adjuster, your employer, or the attorney for your employer and its insurance carrier to speak with your health care providers. You do not have to give permission and you should not. The insurance company and its attorneys have only one reason to speak with your health care providers – to try to get a written report that will harm your case. The Commission will not make you sign such a release and you should never do so.
Likewise, the Commission does not have the authority to order you to sign a release authorizing your employer or its insurance carrier to obtain information about you from the Social Security Administration (SSA). That information is off limits, though in some circumstances it may make sense to turn it over.
Is the insurance company questioning you about your work injury? Have a question about your legal rights? Contact workers compensation attorney Corey Pollard for a free consultation. We’ve helped hundreds of injured workers across Virginia get the benefits and settlements they deserve. Help is just a call, text, or e-mail away.