Disclosure of Private Health Information in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Feeling violated and betrayed are common emotions for anyone going through a medical malpractice case, since most of us are taught from a young age to trust doctors and the medical process. And now, with the advent of the electronic medical records, there is another aspect of medical care vulnerable to exploitation or negligence – when employees or physicians release your private medical information without permission. It seems an almost daily occurrence to see a news report about massive data breaches involving private information, but a recent article on ProPublica looks at the impact of unauthorized releases of private medical information on a small scale, usually involving one or several patients, and the lack of response by federal regulators to this problem. Unfortunately, this issue is also present in a medical malpractice cases due to a requirement under Florida law that in order to initiate a malpractice suit, the individual complaining about medical care must consent to release any medical information that could be relevant to the outcome. Given the serious consequences the unauthorized disclosure of medical records can have on a person’s life, an overview of the information a plaintiff in medical malpractice case must release will appear below so people can guard against its improper use.
How the Information May Be Used
As a preliminary note, this consent to release health information must be included with the presuit notice sent to each medical provider alleged to have committed malpractice, and if it is omitted or later rescinded, the notice is invalid and could affect your ability to pursue litigation.
Due to the sensitive nature of the medical information involved in a malpractice claim, Florida law limits how the information may be used in an effort to protect the individual claiming improper medical treatment from further injury. The permitted uses of the medical information include:
- assisting with investigations into the legitimacy of the medical negligence claim;
- defending against the malpractice claims; and
- receiving legal advice about the malpractice claims.
Persons Included in the Consent
Any medical records, both written and verbal, held by the provider that are the subject of the complaint are included within the consent, as are the records held by medical providers the injured party saw two years before the incident that instigated the claims. In addition to health care providers, the following parties are also authorized to use the medical records:
- insurers for the health care providers;
- experts employed by the health care provider, the insurer or the provider’s lawyer to assess the claims asserted in the notice;
- lawyers and staff retained by a health care provider related to the incident described in the notice; and
- judges deciding the merits of the malpractice claim.
This consent permits the parties listed above to interview any health care provider without the presence of the patient or the patient’s lawyer. Additionally, the consent automatically expires when the claim is resolved, usually through a settlement, or when litigation of the claims is finished, whichever occurs first.
Talk to an Lawyer
Facing a doctor or hospital that negligently treated you is a scary proposition when you consider all the money and lawyers behind them. This imbalance is why you need your own lawyer to represent you and work to get you the restitution you deserve. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado has established medical malpractice lawyers to be your voice against the high-powered medical establishment. Contact us today for a free consultation.