This article is about turning over your workers’ comp medical records.

Throughout the workers’ compensation process, many claimants may receive notices from the employer/insurer that requests that they either provide copies of their medical records or complete a release form, which allows the employer/insurer to request the medical records on their own.  While some claimants may see this as a violation of their privacy, the employer/insurer sees this as a way to ensure that the claimant is receiving the necessary treatment and to ensure that claimants are not “abusing” the privilege of receiving free medical treatment.  In addition, the employer/insurer will need copies of the medical records so that when the employer/insurer schedules the claimant for the Independent Medical Evaluation, the evaluator has a complete medical history of the injury to provide the best possible rating for permanent partial disability.

Although the employer/insurer may have an understandable interest in obtaining copies of the claimant’s medical records, are they entitled to those records? 

The employer/insurer is entitled to the claimant’s medical records, BUT those medical records must be relevant to the work-related injury.  Speak to your workers’ compensation lawyer to find out why the difference matters – A LOT!

Pursuant to the Rules of the Workers’ Compensation Commission, each party is required to provide the opposing party with copies of all relevant medical information which is currently in possession of the party or that is subsequently received by the party.  This duty to disclose medical records is a continuing duty throughout the pendency of the claim.  It is important to note that this duty is reciprocal.  Therefore, the claimant may request copies of any medical information that is in the possession of the employer/insurer.   Although the employer/insurer is entitled to the claimant’s medical records, those medical records must be relevant to the work-related injury.  Thus, if the claimant injured his or her knee, the employer/insurer is not entitled to medical records related to the claimant’s elbow.

It is also possible for a party to issue a subpoena duces tecum (a subpoena for production of evidence) to a physician that will require the physician to supply the issuing party with copies of the requested medical records.  If a party issues a subpoena duces tecum, the opposing party has 30 days to note an objection to the subpoena.  If no objection is noted, the subpoena will be sent to the medical provider and the medical provider must comply with the subpoena.

The claimant should be aware that because the employer/insurer is entitled to copies of the medical records, the claimant should be sure to inform every doctor that is treating the injury that the injury is a work-related injury.  Additionally, the claimant should be sure to advise the physician of any pain or changes in the injury in detail to ensure that the claimant’s medical history of the work-related injury is well documented.  This will make the claims process smoother for all parties involved.

Therefore, a claimant should not be alarmed when an employer/insurer requests copies of medical records or requests that the claimant complete a release form which allows the employer/insurer to obtain copies of medical records.  It is a part of the claims process and not a ruse by the employer/insurer to obtain confidential medical information about the claimant.

All that said, if you have a workers’ comp attorney, you should ask them.  In the vast majority of cases, the message will be that the medical records are turned over, but if the insurance company is playing fast and loose on any issue, the lawyer can be of assistance.  Remember, the insurance company exists, in this circumstance, to protect the employer and their funds.  Deal with a workers’ comp lawyer so that you do not have deal with continually wondering if the insurance company is trying to get over on you.

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