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New California Medical Records Law Will Benefit Injury Victims

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.

To enforce this, under Section 1158 of the California Evidence Code, the person or entity who has custody of the records is liable for all expenses within reason if they fail to make records available during business hours within five days after the presentation of written authorization.

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 records law.

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 consultation.