Injured Workers and Medical Releases: Insurance Companies Requesting Releases and Workers’ Compensation: What You Need to Know

Injured Workers are frequently requested by Insurance Carriers to sign medical release forms.   These releases are also requested by Attorneys who represent both Injured Workers and those who represent Insurance Companies.

This article will discuss workers’ compensation discovery, medical releases, the different types of medical releases, and why insurance carriers and attorneys request medical releases.

What is Discovery?

“Discovery” is a legal term. It essentially means “information gathering” within a legal system. Legal systems, such as the California Workers’ Compensation System provides laws concerning this discovery. Examples of workers’ compensation discovery include witness depositions, medical records subpoenas, and medical-legal examinations.

Records can be obtained formally and informally.  The formal was is by subpoena.  The informal way is by consent.  Consent is obtained via a signed medical release authorizing the document production.

Why Is Workers’ Compensation Discovery Unique?

Workers’ Compensation (WC) Discovery is unique in that is pace is set within the Labor Code. Labor Code Section 5402 provides that Insurance Companies have 90 days, from the date of employer discovery of the claim.

WC Discovery is used to find out a variety of information. Medical records may allow the Insurance Company to verify the injury.   Medical records can provide information about one’s medical history which can impact the Claimant’s entitlement to compensation.

Beyond workers’ compensation, there are federal rules which address medical privacy issues.  This federal law is HIPPA which created national standards to protect individual’s medical records and other personal health information.  It “generally gives patients the right to examine and obtain a copy of their own health records.”  HIPPA

Why Are Medical Releases Important for Discovery?

Labor Code Section 5402 creates urgency for the insurance companies to obtain the claimant’s information as soon as possible.  Medical releases allow for medical records to be produced in a more expeditious fashion.

Also, there releases may authorize psychiatric or drug and alcohol treatment.  A medical release must specify these records.   Releases does not require these releases.  Thus, Injured Workers, especially if the claim is not a psychiatric claim, do not and should not sign a release for these records.   This is noted in the case of Allison vs. WCAB, , it was noted that “[t]he Supreme Court ruled that although the plaintiffs waived their physician-patient confidential communication privilege (Evid. Code, § 990[Deering’s] et seq.) and their psychotherapist-patient confidential communication privilege (Evid. Code, § 1010[Deering’s] et seq.) as to the medical, emotional, and mental conditions placed by them in issue in the case, and information regarding such conditions was therefore discoverable, all medical privacy was not waived.” 64 C.C.C. 624

Is there an Obligation to Provide a Release?

There is no obligation for an Injured Worker to provide a release to an Insurance Company.   Again, with psychiatric or drug and alcohol treatment releases, these should be scrutinized whether they are relevant.

What Happens If I Do Not Sign Releases?

Sometimes, when releases are not signed, a carrier will deny a claim based upon the lack of cooperation in discovery.   Insurance Companies also have the power to subpena records.  Therefore, they can obtain the records.  It may, however, take more time and paperwork to do so.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for over 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

WHY IS MY WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIM DELAYED?  INJURED WORKERS, OUTSTANDING CLAIMS, AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Many Injured Workers have their workers’ compensation claims delayed.

This article will discuss why claims are delayed and what Insurance Company activities occur during the delay period.

Why Are Claims Delayed?

Insurance Companies delay claims in order to verify that there is a legitimate claim.  Per the Labor Code, they are afforded this opportunity to investigate.

As part of their investigation, Insurance Companies will investigate the following matters.

Coverage: Insurance Companies need to verify that they actually insure the Employer for the date of the injury.

Employment Verification: Insurance Companies need to verify the Injured Worker actually worked for the Insured Employer.

Date of Injury:  Insurance Companies need to verify the date of injury.

Employer Injury Knowledge:  Insurance Companies need to know if the Employer knows about the work injury.  They need to know the details how the injury happened, whether there were witnesses,  and whether it was reported to management.

Medical Verification: Insurance Companies will seek to obtain the medical reporting from the Industrial Clinic or the Medical Provider who treated the worker.

Statements: Insurance Companies may seek the use of an investigator to take statements of the injured worker, other employees of the company, or witnesses,  to verify the injury.  Investigations can be done by Attorney who may take depositions.

Records:  Insurance Companies may seek records from prior employers, insurance companies or medical providers

Qualified Medical Evaluation: An Insurance Company may seek a Panel Evaluator from the State of California to obtain a medical opinion on causation. .

What is the Authority for Delaying a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Labor Code Section 5402(b) provides for a 90 day period upon which Insurance Companies have to deny a claim.  Thus, there is a 90 day period to delay the claim and investigate.  This 90 days is from the knowledge of the claim.

The date of knowledge is per LC 5402(a) which provides that “ [k]nowledge of an injury, obtained from any source, on the part of an employer, his or her managing agent, superintendent, foreman, or other person in authority, or knowledge of the assertion of a claim of injury sufficient to afford opportunity to the employer to make an investigation into the facts, is equivalent to service under Section 5400.” Thus, employer knowledge can trigger the start of the insurance company’s delay period

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

 

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