In a personal injury case, the issue of physical and/or emotional injuries, and the medical bills incurred as a result of these injuries, are usually central to the case. Plaintiffs typically argue that their injuries were exceptional and the direct result of the defendant’s conduct, while the defendant attempts to minimize the degree of injury or place the blame on someone else.
In order to accurately ascertain the extent of a plaintiff’s injuries, he or she will usually be required to provide documentation of injuries, doctors’ visits, surgeries, prescriptions, and any other types of medical necessities alleged in the complaint. In some situations, the extent of medical information required can be even broader, requiring plaintiffs to disclose sensitive personal information.
Proving Your Injury in Cherry Hill, New Jersey
While many requests for medical information from defendants can be fought in court, it is undisputed that defendants are entitled to medical records related to the damages claims that you are making. For example, if you are claiming that your injuries required a $30,000 hospital stay, the defendants are entitled to see the bills from that stay to confirm the amount and the records related to that stay to determine if it was actually related to your injuries.
Likewise, if you allege ongoing treatment, defendants are entitled to see proof of that ongoing treatment. While medical records can sometimes be privileged, the rule in court is that if you intend to use the documents or records to prove your case, such as by showing how much damage occurred, then the defendants are entitled to those same records as well. This is all part of the fair exchange of information before trial.
But What About More Extensive Records?
In personal injury cases, a defendant’s interest in your medical records often extends far beyond the records relating to procedures or treatments from which you want to recover. Instead, defendants may try to claim access to records related to any medical condition you have ever experienced, going back years if not decades.
The central question in determining whether you have to produce these records is whether they are relevant. Records can be relevant for many reasons and the more general your injuries are, the more likely a wider range of documents will be determined to be relevant to those injuries.
As an example, if you sue a defendant for running over your foot with his car, there are likely to be only a small category of medical records relevant to your case – those records related to your foot, the injuries you experienced to your foot, and any prior accidents with your foot that defendants might try to place blame for your injuries.
By contrast, if you sue a defendant for rear-ending your car and claim widespread aches and pains, and ongoing emotional distress, defendants may be able to obtain a much wider array of documents. If your aches and pains are all over, they may be able to get medical records related to any physical condition you have experienced, prior medical issues you have had, and ongoing treatment. Based on your allegation of emotional distress, they may also be able to get access to your mental health records.
For some plaintiffs, access to medical records simply is not a big issue. Perhaps you are generally a healthy person who rarely visits the doctor and has nothing concerning in your files. For others, however, there may be sensitive or embarrassing information in your medical records, or an extensive medical history that could be used against you. In these circumstances, it may be wise to try to narrowly define and limit your physical injury claims.
New Jersey Attorneys Helping You Prepare for Release of Your Medical Information
When evaluating the pros and cons of bringing a lawsuit, one of the factors to consider is how the lawsuit is likely to impact your personal life, and whether the lawsuit may feel like an invasion of privacy for you and your loved ones. Evaluating the potential likelihood of having to release personal medical information is an important part of this equation, and a factor that should not be overlooked.
Although you may ultimately decide to take that chance for justice or to recover significant expenses you have incurred which may greatly outweigh any invasion of privacy, this is always a decision you should make with eyes wide open and a full understanding of the facts.
At Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo, our personal injury attorneys can answer your questions concerning a potential personal injury lawsuit and help you decide the best path for you. We take the time to listen to your story, review all of your options and potential case scenarios, and to help you make an informed decision on how to proceed. You can rest assured that our attorneys will work hard on your behalf to obtain settlements for lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering, and to help bring you closure.
With over 75 years of combined legal experience, Petro Cohen’s attorneys, Barry Cohen, Susan Petro, Rich Gaeckle, and Michael Veneziani, will handle your personal injury case passionately, fighting for the full and fair compensation that you rightly deserve. They have successfully handled thousands of personal injury cases for clients throughout Southern New Jersey. Additionally, Petro Cohen law firm was named to the prestigious U.S. News & World Report & Best Law Firms in America® list in New Jersey for Personal Injury in 2017.
Our personal injury attorneys have decades of experience successfully handling cases involving auto accident injuries, construction litigation, premises liability, slip and falls, wrongful death, and many other types of serious injury claims. Regardless of the type of serious injury you may face, our team of qualified personal injury attorneys is there for you. We know you have choices with your legal representation for your serious personal injury. In litigation, you don’t get a second chance, so be sure to choose your representation wisely.
For more information or a free consultation with one of our attorneys at any of our four office locations (Northfield, Cherry Hill, Hamilton Township, and Cape May Court House, New Jersey), contact us online or at (888) 675-7607.