Whether you were injured in a car accident, truck accident, boating accident, slip and fall accident, or another type of personal injury accident, you can count on one thing after filing your personal injury claim: insurance companies requesting medical records.
The aftermath of a serious car accident can be overwhelming. From doctors’ appointments to dealing with car repairs and insurance paperwork, you have a lot to juggle. It is normal for people to rely on insurance adjusters to know what to do next and to be honest about what type of settlement to expect. Unfortunately, insurance companies focus on protecting their profits and paying out the least amount of money possible to settle claims.
The insurance adjuster is not working on your behalf—not even the adjuster with your own insurance company. The adjuster’s job is to save the insurer money by minimizing the amount paid to accident victims. If you are wondering, “Should I release my medical records to another driver’s insurance adjuster?” the answer is that you should not. Here is why.
Is a Review of a Medical File a Fishing Expedition to Deny My Claim?
When an insurance adjuster asks you to sign a release to allow the insurer to review your medical records, they often coat the request in sugar. The adjuster may say that signing the release will allow the insurance company to obtain your medical records without bothering you and drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to fulfill your claim. The adjuster also may claim that signing a release will help you get your money faster.
You may be tempted to sign the release. After all, the agency needs a copy of your medical records to make a final decision, right?
This is the pitch that the adjusters often make. While that may sound nice, it rarely works out to the advantage of the accident victim.
Signing a release grants the adjuster access to your complete medical file.
Insurance companies often rummage through accident victims’ medical records looking for reasons to deny the claims, including pre-existing conditions that look even remotely similar to the injuries sustained in the accident.
If the insurer finds records of similar injuries, they may argue that your injuries were pre-existing and not caused by the accident as you claimed. The insurer may decide to deny your claim or offer a settlement that is a fraction of the value of the claim.
Is the Insurer Looking for Pre-existing Conditions to Reject My Claim?
When an insurance adjuster asks you to sign over your medical records, they are more likely than not searching for pre-existing conditions. While it is helpful to them to find pre-existing conditions that are similar to your claimed injuries, they may try use any pre-existing condition to their advantage.
The insurance adjuster may claim that the accident merely aggravated a pre-existing condition and did not actually cause your injury. Alternately, the adjuster may contend that a pre-existing condition was the reason for your injury.
For this reason, you should never sign over your medical release to an insurance adjuster.
What Should You Do Instead?
The best thing you can do is have a South Carolina personal injury attorney deal on your behalf with the other driver’s insurance company. An attorney can act as the go-between for you and the insurance agency and provide the medical information that pertains to your accident.
This means that they will not have access to information about pre-existing conditions. They will only have access to information about your claimed injuries as well as how they have negatively affected your life.
The Eggshell Skull Rule
If you did sign a medical release, and if the insurance adjusters did uncover a preexisting condition, you still have some hope. The eggshell skull rule is based on the idea that the defendant takes the plaintiff “as he finds him,” including pre-existing conditions and all. If a defendant exacerbates a pre-existing condition, they may be held liable for all damages that ensue, and not just those that are considered normal. This is the case for all preexisting conditions, even those that are unforeseeable and that cause uncommon reactions, such as hemophilia or osteogenesis (brittle bone disorder).
What to Do When Your Claim is Denied in Bad Faith
Insurance bad faith occurs when an insurance agency acts unreasonably and denies a person’s claim without a factual basis to support the denial. When insurers act in bad faith, they can be sued for damages, as well as the defendant. Some acts of insurance bad faith as described under SECTION 38-59-20 under the South Carolina Code of Laws include:
- Failing to communicate with claimants and third parties regarding an insurance claim in a timely fashion;
- Failing to adopt and implement reasonable standards for the prompt investigation of a claim, including third-party liability claims;
- Failing to attempt to follow through with fair and equitable settlements of claims in a timely fashion, including third-party liability claims;
- Encouraging accident victims to pursue their claims through lawsuits by offering substantially less than what their claim is worth;
- Offering to settle claims, including third-party claims, for much less than the claim is worth;
- Threatening to rescind a policy upon the processing of a claim; and
- Any other practice which constitutes an unreasonable delay in settling a claim.
Work With an Aggressive South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer
At David Blackwell Law, our firm is committed to representing the right people for the right reasons and to making our community a better place to live. If you have been seriously injured, we can help you determine whether you have a valid personal injury claim during a free consultation. If you have an injury claim, we will fight to take care of you and help you seek just compensation for your injuries and other losses. Our South Carolina personal injury lawyers serve clients in Lancaster, Indian Land, Heath Springs, Kershaw, Fort Mill, and the surrounding areas. To schedule your consultation today, give us a call or contact us online.