Getting Access to Records to Prove Medical Malpractice
People seek medical attention to receive treatment for an illness or in response to an injury. No one expects a doctor’s actions to worsen the problem or cause new suffering. Consequently, when someone experiences an injury due to a doctor’s negligent care, it usually comes as a shock. This is the point when a medical malpractice lawsuit may be an option. The medical system can only function if patients trust doctors. Without this confidence, people are less likely to consent to medical care or follow a physician’s treatment plan. This is why it is so important to hold negligent doctors accountable. The public and state medical boards need to know about a doctor that is providing harmful treatment to prevent others from getting hurt, and to serve as a deterrent to other physicians about practices that will not be tolerated. Proving a medical malpractice case requires a lot of evidence, and much of this information is contained within a person’s medical records. Thus, it is very important healthcare facilities and physicians’ offices cooperate when patients ask for a copy of their treatment history. The Florida Supreme Court is currently considering a case that asks whether a federal statute on disclosure of patient safety information overrules Florida law requiring the collection and release of medical records for medical malpractice cases. While the court’s decision will likely take months, it is important to understand when a healthcare provider is required to issue this information for purposes of a malpractice lawsuit. A discussion of Florida law on this issue will follow below.
Florida legislators were concerned about the lack of cooperation and transparency as it relates to patients seeking access to medical records to support malpractice claims. To protect patients’ rights and ensure they had the opportunity to present credible evidence, an amendment to the state constitution was enacted in 2004. This provision states that patients have the right to access any medical records held by a healthcare provider related to “adverse medical incidents.” Receiving access to this information means a patient is given chance to inspect and copy records following a request by the patient or patient’s representative. An “adverse medical incident” refers to anything that caused or could have caused death or injury to a patient stemming from intentional or negligent acts.
Florida statute further supports this constitutional provision by specifically requiring medical facilities to release all patient information during the early investigational phase of a malpractice claim. This period of investigation is required to reduce litigation, and makes all claimants present sufficient evidence that malpractice occurred before the case can proceed. To facilitate this investigation, all healthcare providers are obligated to produce records when asked within 10 business days, and claims that the records are incomplete or the account has an outstanding balance are not grounds to withhold the documents. In fact, if a medical facility fails to release the information within the set time period, it is viewed as acting in bad faith and relieves the injured party from needing to produce certain medical evidence as a perquisite to suing in court.
Get Help from a Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Dealing with an injury caused by a doctor’s negligent or reckless behavior is hard to accept, and should not be faced without the guidance of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado handles many types of malpractice claims, and can assess the merits of your case. Contact us for a free consultation.