During the course of your accident claim, you will likely be presented with a few different release forms and authorization requests. These are generally documents requesting medical records or property damage release forms.
These documents can be confusing or sent without explanation. The main thing to know is that you should NOT sign them before you understand how they can affect your insurance claim.
In the following article, we'll discuss the three most common types of forms you may have to sign and how they can affect the value of your settlement.
How the Insurance Company Uses Your Medical Records Against You
How to Protect Your Medical History
Why the Insurance Company Wants You to Sign a Property Damage Release
Why the Insurance Company Wants You to Sign a Full Release
Let's get started….
The MOST important piece of evidence in any bodily injury claim is going to be your medical records. If an insurance company can disprove, challenge, or manipulate any information in your medical history, they can lower your accident settlement amount.
It's because of this that many insurance companies first move is to send you a form that allows them to access your medical records. This is true whether it's your own carrier or the other party's insurance company.
Although sending out medical authorization forms is standard practice you should be on your guard. Why?
Insurance companies will carefully review your prior medical history for evidence of a preexisting condition. Why? Because a pre-existing condition allows the insurance company to argue that your current injuries are not due to your accident.
That they are in fact a past injury simply resurfacing.
This means that the insurance company is NOT responsible for paying you for your current pain and suffering.
Doctor's notes and comments
Insurance companies want to know what your doctor is saying about your injuries and when they are saying it.
A common scenario is where your injuries appear a couple of day after accident. These late car accident injuries are quite common. However, since you did not mention these injuries the day of your accident and during your initial doctor visit, the insurance company can claim your symptoms are unrelated to the accident.
Which would result in you getting less for your settlement.
Another common thing insurance companies do is see how frequently you visited the doctor.
If you have a long history of medical issues and are often at the doctor's office, the insurance company can claim that you were in “poor health” before the accident. They can reduce your settlement by arguing the accident didn't significantly affect your long term quality of life.
Many insurance companies employ nurses and doctors to review medical claims to make sure they are reasonable. If a disagreement occurs over the nature or severity of your injuries an insurance company might request an independent medical exam or “IME”.
This typically only occurs in high-value claims or when the potential for long-term treatment is present. There is a lot to be said about IMEs, just know that you are not required to submit to one and that sometimes these “independent” exams can be slanted in the insurance companies favor.
These are just a few ways that medical records are used against claimants to deny or to limit payouts. If you're in any doubt have an attorney examine your case before moving forward.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)  makes sure that people's private health information is protected. It grants you the right to your own records and ensures that there is a limit on who else can view them.
Part of HIPPA's mandate is to allow states to regulate your access to medical records. Some of the ways they do this are:
The most important thing to know is that by signing a medical authorization form you are essentially waiving all of your HIPPA rights. If you do proceed in signing the form be sure that it pertains only to your current injuries and not the full scope of your medical history.
Another big aspect of any claim is the damage that your vehicle has sustained. This is dealt with much more quickly than the medical side of the claim.
There are two scenarios you can probably expect.
1. The car is a total loss
If it is deemed that the cost to repair your vehicle exceeds its present value the insurance company will consider it “totaled”. They will then try to determine the pre-loss market value of your car and offer you a check in return for a signed property damage release form.
2. The car is not a total loss
If the damage is repairable odds are you won't have to think about signing a release. You can typically take the car to the shop of your choosing and the insurance company pays them directly. Every carrier is a bit different though so be sure to discuss this with your adjuster.
A full release of liability is the conclusion to many insurance claims. This is you letting the insurance fully “off the hook” for an agreed upon settlement amount. On this document, you'll typically find.
It's important to know that once you sign this form you can NEVER restart your claim against the insurance company. So be extra careful to review this form before you sign it.
Sometimes insurance companies will dangle cash and hope that you sign a full release form in exchange for a quick settlement. This is generally a ploy to reduce settlement amounts that you should not fall for.
These forms are written in legalese and if you're having a hard time understanding it have a few people read it. If you still are unsure consult with an attorney.
When it comes down to it, release forms and medical record authorizations are not that complicated. But they can be written or presented in a confusing way and get lost in the shuffle of a claim.
The most important thing is to keep in mind what these three documents are and how to respond to them.
1 - HIPPA
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