In a California personal injury lawsuit, medical records often play a pivotal
role in proving your claim. Accordingly, it is important to obtain and
review your medical records as soon as possible.
Existing federal and California Law guarantee that patients can access
their medical records. Most notably, under the Health Information Portability
and Accountability Act (HIPAA), patients have the right to obtain a copy
of their medical records from any medical provider.
California law requires medical providers to make available, prior to the
filing of any action or the appearance of a defendant in an action, records
under their custody or control. The documents must be made available for
inspection promptly upon the presentation of a written authorization signed
by the patient or representative of the patient.
under Section 1158 of the California Evidence Code, failure to make the records available, during business hours, within
five days after the presentation of the written authorization, may subject
the person or entity having custody or control of the records to liability
for all reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, incurred
in any proceeding to enforce the statute.
Nonetheless, the forms and specific procedures required by health care
providers can vary, which makes it cumbersome to obtain a full copy of
your medical records. In addition, while many health care providers will
provide the requested records promptly, when facing a medical malpractice
lawsuit, others will try to complicate and delay the process.
A new California law (Assembly Bill No. 1337) aims to streamline the process and make it less onerous for injury victims
to track down their medical records. It specifically creates a standard
authorization form for disclosure of health information by medical providers.
Under the amended law, medical providers must accept a signed and completed
authorization form for the disclosure of health information if the medical
provider determines that the form is valid, printed in a typeface no smaller
than 14-point type, and in substantially the form specified in the medical
The amended law should also make it easier for patients and their attorneys
to obtain medical records in electronic format, which makes it substantially
easier to both search and store the medical records. Under the new changes,
if the records requested are maintained electronically, the medical provider
must provide the requested medical records in the electronic form and
format requested by the patient or his/her representative.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s negligence,
you may be entitled to compensation. We encourage you to contact
a San Diego injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free