If you’ve recently been in a car accident where you suffered personal injuries, you can expect to receive a medical authorization release from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Many drivers make the mistake of signing that release and sending it back without consulting with a lawyer first. Just because it comes from an insurance company doesn’t mean you need to sign it, and when it’s coming from the other driver’s insurance company, you should always think twice about signing it and get a lawyer’s opinion first.
In all likelihood, any lawyer that you hire will tell you that you shouldn’t sign a medical authorization release after a car accident. When you sign it, you’re giving the insurance company the legal authority to look through your entire medical history. You shouldn’t need to give up your right to privacy just because you suffered an injury in a car accident. Besides the privacy concerns, you also need to consider the fact that the insurance company will be looking through your medical records for information to use against you.
People often have the misconception that insurance companies want to find out what happened after an accident and get everyone involved fairly compensated according to their levels of fault. In a perfect world, this may be the case. But in reality, an insurance company’s goal is always to minimize the amount that it pays out on claims. For injury claims against one of its drivers, an insurance company wants to find a way to either get the claim dismissed or, if that isn’t possible, pay as little as possible in the settlement. The at-fault driver’s insurance company is not your friend here, which means you must be careful about what you share with them.
Now, you will need to provide the insurance company with documentation of your injuries to receive compensation. However, that doesn’t mean they need to see all your medical records. When you hire a lawyer, your lawyer can select the medical documents that are pertinent to your claim and send them over.
There are a few ways that an insurance company can try to deny your claim or reduce your compensation when you sign a medical authorization release. One of the most common is the preexisting condition. This is where the insurance company examines your medical records for any possible symptom from your past that may relate in some way to your injury from the accident. Let’s say that you went to the doctor a year and a half ago and mentioned that your shoulder felt a bit sore. In the car accident, you ended up with a torn rotator cuff. An insurance company can claim that you had a preexisting condition, so it shouldn’t need to pay for all your medical bills.
Another thing the insurance company will be looking or is any inconsistencies in statements you’ve made to police and medical personnel. This can be particularly damaging to your claim, because symptoms of injuries often don’t show up right away. You may feel fine immediately after a car accident, especially with the adrenaline that accompanies the situation. Then you go to the emergency room for a checkup afterwards, tell them you feel fine and get released. The next day, you wake up in agony. This happens all the time, and while your injuries are legitimate, the other insurance company will use the fact that you said you felt fine against you.
If the insurance company gets desperate, it can even use frequent visits to the doctor against you. It will claim that although your injuries are legitimate, you may be exaggerating, since you seem to visit the doctor quite often for minor issues.
These strategies may or may not work, but it’s better to avoid giving the insurance company the opportunity to use them. Don’t sign any medical authorization release without consulting with your lawyer. This is a smart approach to take period after a car accident – say and do as little as possible before you’ve spoken to a lawyer and gotten their advice, so you don’t give up any of your rights.