Your medical records are often the crux of your personal injury lawsuit. They contain the information needed to support your case. Getting accurate and detailed medical reports isn't always easy. While all states are required to provide you with medical records on request, the procedure for requesting them and the mandatory timeline your medical professionals must follow are set by your state. If you live in the state of Maine and need to access your medical records for your personal injury suit, there are some things you should know.
Locating Medical Records
If you have visited more than one doctor or medical facility for ailments connected to your injury, you will need to track down all the records. Many doctor's offices and medical facilities in Maine are connected via the HealthInfoNet project, which allows you or your medical care professional to access your medical records from multiple medical sources; however, not all offices and medical facilities are currently part of the project. You may need to contact medical offices or medical facilities for your records if they are not included in the HealthInfoNet system. Some records from non-participating facilities, such as lab tests or x-rays, may be sent to your primary care provider, but this typically only occurs if they ordered the tests. If you go to the emergency room for treatment, those records may not be automatically sent to your doctor. Make a list of all medical facilities you have visited, including counselors or psychological services, so that you can make a formal request for all your records.
Requesting Medical Records
The State of Maine requires a written request for your medical records. While some doctor's offices and medical facilities will accept a form letter that is signed and dated by you, many require you to fill out a medical release form to receive a copy of your own records. This typically must be done in person, so be prepared to visit the office to request your medical records. You will need to access your records and give them to your attorney, as the doctor's office cannot release your medical records to your attorney. According to Maine Revised Statutes Title 22 §1711-B, your doctor must release your records to you in a "reasonable" amount of time. While reasonable time is often interpreted as 30 days, the law does not state a specific time frame. You can access your medical records contained in the HealthInfoNet system via a password issued by your medical facility.
Cost of Medical Records
Physician's offices and medical facilities may charge a reasonable rate for copying your medical records. According to the National Organization of Social Security Claimant's Representatives, medical offices and facilities in Maine can charge up to $5 for the first page and 45 cents per additional page with a maximum charge of $250 for copies of your entire medical records. If they mail them to you, they can charge you the actual postage rates. Many offices do not charge for copies of your medical records, unless the records are lengthy and would require extensive time for personnel to copy them. Ask about the cost of accessing your medical records at the time of your request to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Incomplete or Erroneous Records
According to the Maine Revised Statutes Title 22 §1711-B, 3A, if your records are incomplete or have errors, you have a right to ask for them to be amended. It is important that your medical records clearly show the connections between your injuries and your treatment so you can substantiate your claims in your personal injury suit. If your doctor refuses to amend the records to reflect pertinent information, you have a right to submit a statement to be included in your medical file. The doctor also has the right to attach their own response to your statements. They must provide you with a copy of any response they make. Your statement and their response will become part of your medical records.
Tips for Keeping Good Medical Records
There are some things you can do to help ensure you have complete and accurate medical records after an injury. Follow these tips when you visit a doctor or medical facility.
- Start a file folder of all medical records.
- Keep a copy of the treatment and release form from any visits to emergency rooms or clinics. This should include a statement of the reason for the visit, the treatment performed and instructions for aftercare. Ask the medical facility if they are part of the HealthInfoNet project. If they are, ask them how you can access your records. Large facilities like Eastern Maine Medical Center will enter all your medical information into the Health Network system, where you can access it with your assigned password or ID number.
- Keep copies of all bills or insurance statements.
- Ask your doctor for a printout of the details of each visit. Most Maine doctors now keep electronic copies of your visit, which includes the presenting medical conditions and treatment plans.
- Keep a journal of any new or worsening symptoms that arise after the injury. Take a copy of the list to your doctor when you visit. Ask them to add the symptoms to your medical records. This will verify problems that may be a result of the injury that you may forget if you do not write them down.
By learning to keep good medical records and getting complete and accurate copies of all your medical records, you will be better able to support your claims of damages in a personal injury case. Contact a lawyer at a law firm like Lawyer, Lawyer, Dutton & Drake LLP for more advice.