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Posted in Personal Injury on November 14, 2019
Dealing with an insurance company can be the most difficult part of your personal injury claim. You might think that as a policyholder who has always made your payments on time, or the party that did not cause the accident, an insurance company will be on your side. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Insurance companies often try to take advantage of clients to avoid paying claims.
Be wary when dealing with insurance companies. Do not assume a claims adjuster has your best interests in mind. Before responding to any requests from an insurance provider, including one to share your medical records, consult with a California personal injury attorney.
In the days following your accident, or sometimes as soon as the day of, a person with the title of insurance claims adjuster will contact you about your claim. A claims adjuster’s job is to protect the interests of the insurance company that hired him or her, not the interests of the injured party. Be careful what you say to a claims adjuster, as he or she may be trying to find ways to combat your claim or downsize recovery.
One of the requests a claims adjuster might make is to see your medical records. An insurance company might need to check your medical records to verify the diagnoses of the injuries you are claiming. Medical records can also verify the extent of your injuries and prognosis for recovery. An insurance company might also request medical documents such as bills and financial statements to verify the prices of treatment. These are acceptable, valid reasons for an insurance company to ask for access to your medical records.
An insurance company should not request to see your records for a full investigation of your lifelong medical history. It should only need a partial history – only the documents related to the injury for which you are seeking damages. If an insurance company asks to dig farther into your medical records, politely decline permission to do so. No law in California forces you to give an insurance company permission to access your medical records. Protect yourself by specifically restricting access only to the medical records related to your accident instead of signing a blanket agreement.
If an insurance company has a valid reason, you may give your permission to access the records so you can resolve your claim. Do not, however, give the adjuster or the insurance company blanket permission to access all your medical records. Instead, be specific in only allowing access to relevant records. Before you sign a document requesting the release of your medical records, show it to an attorney. Otherwise, the insurer may take advantage of you to look at all your medical records.
An insurance company may try to convince you to give it permission for a full medical history if it is attempting to handle your claim in bad faith. A full look at your records could give the insurance company a reason to deny your claim or offer less compensation, such as pre-existing injuries from a prior accident. An insurance company could find many ways in which to use your full medical history against you to get out of offering a fair settlement.
Requesting access to your complete medical records is just one example of insurance bad faith you might encounter during a personal injury claim. Other common bad faith practices include denying a claim without reason, unnecessarily causing delays in processing a claim, offering far less than the true value of damages, drawing out an investigation, misrepresenting facts, misinterpreting an insurance policy and breaching a warranty. Hiring a lawyer to represent you during insurance claim negotiations can help you protect yourself from bad faith practices. Speak to a lawyer before signing or agreeing to anything from an insurance company.