Sunday, May 6, 2012
Am I Required to Turn Over My Medical and Financial Information to the Insurer? Discovery Disclosure in Minnesota Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation Claims
We frequently get calls from our Minnesota personal injury and workers’ compensation clients wondering why they must sign authorizations for the release of their medical records, tax information, and wage records. While it’s not necessarily a pleasant thing to turn over your private health information and financial information to an insurance company, if you’re bringing a personal injury claim or workers’ compensation claim, in some respects, your life becomes an open book. So, yes, generally, you are required to turn over your medical and financial information to the insurance company as part of the discovery process in a Minnesota personal injury or workers’ compensation claim.
If you are bringing a personal injury action in Minnesota against an at-fault person or entity, and you’re claiming damages for medical expenses and wage loss as a result of the injuries you sustained in an accident, you are generally obligated to disclose your medical information and financial information if you are claiming that you’re entitled to compensation for medical expenses and wage loss.
Generally speaking, in a personal injury action in Minnesota, if you’re asked to disclose information as part of the discovery process of your case, you are obligated to turn over anything that is reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence. Admissible evidence includes anything that is relevant, and tends to prove or disprove a fact of the case. Medical records after an accident obviously document your injuries, and they are clearly relevant to determining the nature and extent of your injuries. Financial records after an accident clearly document any loss of earnings you’ve suffered due to your injuries, and they are clearly relevant to determining the extent of your wage losses.
Where things get a little more complicated is disclosure of medical records and financial information in existence prior to your accident, and people often question why the insurance company should have access to this information. In essence, your prior medical history and your prior financial history are also relevant to a determination of your damages. For example, if you have a pre-existing condition, the insurance company will argue that your damages after an accident are partly attributable to your pre-existing condition. An insurance company may also argue that your prior financial records indicate that your income decreased prior to the accident due to the economic downturn, rather than as a result of the accident. Even if you don’t have a pre-existing condition, and even if you did not have a decrease in your earnings prior to the accident, the insurance company and the defendant have a right to examine your medical records and your financial information in existence prior to the accident to make their own independent determination as to whether or not there is any relevant information contained in your records.
In Minnesota workers’ compensation claims, the same general concepts, as set forth above, apply to the disclosure of medical records and income records, but the rules of discovery are somewhat more limited. For example, you are obligated to disclose the names of any medical providers you’ve ever seen for the same condition, or a similar condition, to the one you’ve alleged as part of your claim. You are also required to allow the release of your medical records from these practitioners. You’re not necessarily obligated to release other medical information, but if the workers’ compensation insurer has reason to believe that your other medical information contains relevant evidence, they can petition the judge to require you to disclose additional medical information.
You're also required to disclose any wage or income documentation that is relevant to your claim for wage loss benefits. The workers’ compensation insurer will generally be able to obtain your wage records directly from your employer, but if you’ve been self-employed in addition to your regular wages, or you’ve been self-employed in the recent past, you may be required to authorize the release of your tax information. If you’ve worked at other jobs subsequent your injury, you are also required to disclose your wage records from your other employers.
Going through the discovery process in a disputed Minnesota personal injury action or Minnesota workers’ compensation claim is not always a pleasant experience, but it is necessary. If you have questions about your rights under Minnesota personal injury or workers’ compensation law, contact Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email.