Motor Vehicle Accidents: Do I have to provide a release of medical information to the insurance company?

We recently received an inquiry asking, “Do I have to provide a release of medical information to the insurance company?”

Generally, the answer is “no,” but for a more detailed answer, I need to know the type of case.

If you’re making a claim directly against the driver who caused the wreck, the answer is clearly “no.”  In that situation, we would almost never advise our clients to sign a blank release giving the insurance company full access to all of your medical records.  Instead, we’ll gather all of your medical records related to your wreck and forward them to the insurance company.

Now, once a lawsuit is filed, the insurance company will typically subpoena records from medical providers who you saw as a result of the wreck.  Additionally, if you have a history of a condition related to your injuries from the wreck, the insurance company might try and get your records from before the wreck.  But even in those situations, we’ll try and insist on a reasonable limit on what they obtain.

If you’re making a claim against your uninsured or underinsured motorist carrier or with your personal injury protection carrier, then you have a contractual duty to cooperate with the company.  If you don’t, you could be risking your benefits.  But even in those situations, when the insurance company asks for a release, we’ll try and work with them to provide a limited release.  For example, we might limit the release to those doctors who provided treatment from the wreck.  And if the insurance company wants past medical records, we might limit them to five years before the wreck.  The insurance companies will typically work with us to find some reasonable limits.

Again, there may be situations where you have a long-standing condition that makes things a little different, but for those most part, this is how we try and deal with requests for a medical release.

Head Injuries and Concussions — From Players’ Perspective

If you know me, you know I’m a huge University of Texas sports fan.  Because of that, I’m a huge fan of the Longhorn Network.  Usually, the stories just relate to my sports passion, but in light of David Ash’s retirement from football due to his repeated concussions, the LHN ran a great piece that talked with three former UT players about their battles with concussions.

Watching it, one thing that stood out to me was something that we see in our practice (and which the science backs up), and that is, once you have had a concussion (or multiple concussions), it takes a smaller impact to re-injure the brain.  Additionally, with a history of concussions, the symptoms appear to get worse.

If you have any interest in head injuries, concussions or sports, I highly recommend the story below.

Leading Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury

We represent a number of clients who have brain injuries, and I received this infographic the other day describing the causes of traumatic brain injuries.  I thought it was brilliant, and I wanted to share it here.

TBIStats_Causes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VA Misses Mark In Brain Injury Research

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of helping a number of clients who have suffered from brain injuries.  And as I’ve written before, I hoped that one small benefit of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was that the Veterans Administration and others would use the opportunity to conduct meaningful research on brain injuries that could help both our military and the rest of society.

Unfortunately, I might have had my hopes too high.  Over the weekend, the Austin American Statesman ran a wonderful project by Jeremy Schwartz that outlined many of the problems facing researchers who tried to launch an expensive brain injury research program in Waco.

If you’re interested at all in brain injuries and brain injury research, I urge you to spend some time with the resources at the project.

Even if you’re not particularly interested in brain injuries, I think the project is still a good example of what journalism could be.  In addition to his written articles, which also appeared in the paper, the project includes video stories and links to the actual documents used to substantiate the article.  It is extremely well done.

Car Wrecks: Avoiding Road Rage

My favorite example of Dallas traffic happened several years ago during Texas/OU weekend.  We were in college, driving on I35 (no doubt with the radio blaring), and I saw a driver four lanes over start screaming because he thought someone cut him off.  But he was screaming so loud that we could hear him, through four lanes of traffic, and over our radio.

Thankfully, few of us are that bad, but I’m sure we all get annoyed a bit when driving.  And that’s dangerous for us and all those around us.

Recently, I received an email from AAA that had some tips for avoiding road rage, and I thought I’d share them here.  They are as follows:

  • Cutting people off. When you merge into traffic, use your turn signal and make sure you have plenty of room to enter traffic without cutting someone off. If you accidentally do cut someone off, try to apologize with an appropriate gesture, such as a hand wave. If someone cuts you off, take the high road: Slow down and give them plenty of room.
  • Driving slowly in the left lane. Even if you’re driving the speed limit, if you’re in the left lane and someone wants to pass, be courteous; move over and let them pass so you don’t anger drivers behind you. The left lane is actually intended as a passing-only lane. Otherwise, you’re expected to move to the right. You might be familiar with the signs that read: keep right except to pass. Besides, if the car behind you is speeding, it just might receive some unwanted but justified attention from law enforcement. Also, if you notice a long string of cars behind you on a two-lane mountain road, find an appropriate turnout and let them pass.
  • Tailgating. Drivers can really get angry when another car follows them too closely, so allow adequate room between you and the car in front of you. Follow the two-second rule: when the vehicle in front of you passes a landmark, it should take you at least two seconds to reach the same point. If you’re being tailgated, put on your turn signal and pull over to allow the vehicle to pass.
  • Making obscene or provocative gestures. Never flip off another driver. Almost nothing makes other drivers angrier than an obscene gesture. Even shaking your head may anger some drivers. So be cautious and courteous—signal every time you merge or change lanes, as well as when you turn.

Most of this is common sense, but it’s always good to get a little reminder to help us keep our cool while driving.

 

Posted on: September 5, 2014 | Tagged

Personal Injury Claims: What If My Medical Bills Exceed The Policy Limit

I received this question from a potential client the other day.

Whether you have a car wreck, on-the-job injury, slip and fall, or any other personal injury claim, your claim will usually be paid by an insurance company.  Unless you have a claim against a large commercial business (think Walmart), then you’re only going to be able to recover from the defendant’s insurance policy.Unfortunately, insurance policies don’t pay unlimited amounts.  Policies come with a “policy limits”, the maximum amount that the insurance company will be liable for in any claim.   Except in rare circumstances, that limit is the most the insurance company will ever be required to pay, no matter how bad you’re hurt.  (For a more detailed article on policy limits, click here.)

In some circumstances, a client’s medical expenses can exceed the policy limits.  What do you do then?

Generally, there are two potential courses of action.  First, if you health insurance, then health insurance will pay most of your medical expenses.  Unfortunately, you typically have to reimburse your health insurance company for the amounts that it has paid.  When these medical expenses exceed the policy limits, we will typically negotiate the amount you have to pay back to the insurance company so that we can minimize that amount and put as much money as possible back in your pocket.

Alternatively, if you don’t have health insurance, then those bills are likely still outstanding.  In that case, we’ll negotiate directly with the medical providers.  We can usually work something out.  In these cases, the medical providers usually know, especially when the bills are high, that people don’t have the financial resources to personally pay large healthcare bills.  Thus, they know that the best way to get it is out of a settlement.  So often, we’ll be able to negotiate a resolution where the medical providers are accepting pennies on the dollar.  The medical providers know that something is better than nothing, even if that something isn’t very big.

There are, of course, other ways of solving this problem, but these answers settle most of the problems.

Posted on: September 2, 2014 | Tagged

Austin Bans Use of Hand-Held Cell Phones While Driving

Yesterday, the Austin City Council adopted a ban on drivers using hand held electronic devices, including cell phones.  The ban, to go into effect on January 1, 2015, doe contain exceptions for hands-free devices and for 911 or other emergency calls.  You can read more about the ban in this article by KXAN.

I have some mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, I see these problems daily, and I preach about the dangers of distracted driving, including the curse of texting while driving, and, overall, I’m in favor of the ban.  On the other hand, I’m a bit concerned that this might be overreaching.  Talking on cell phones has become accepted, and it’s hard to legislate away such accepted conduct.

I hope the biggest effect of the ban is that we don’t have to see so many people texting while driving.  Police officers think the overall ban will make it easier to enforce existing texting while driving bans, and I certainly think that’s a good idea.

Can I Sue A Day Care For Neglect?

Yes.  Texas law allows parents to sue a day care for neglect of a child.

Unfortunately, many kids suffer injuries while they are entrusted to care workers at day care.  These injuries can occur from neglect, abuse or improper supervision of the children.  Your rights and remedies often depend on the exact facts of your case.

Fortunately for those required to make claims, Texas law requires most day care operators to carry liability insurance that pays at least $300,000 per occurrence.  However, there are some broad exceptions, including exceptions when a day care operator can’t purchase insurance for financial reasons or when the day care can’t find a company to underwrite its coverage.  If you’re looking around at day cares, make sure to ask whether the day cares you are considering have insurance coverage.

Be Aware In Crosswalks

Pedestrian sign 2I was really ticked off yesterday.

As I was driving home, I was approaching a crosswalk.  Normally, there isn’t anyone at the crosswalk, but yesterday someone was there waiting to cross (actually, one of my daughter’s dance teammates crossing to go to her dance studio).

I stopped so that she could cross the street, and no less than eight vehicles went around me on the right, driving in the bike lane,  before the person behind me also stopped, allowing the pedestrian to cross the street.

This follows an incident this weekend when I was stopped to make a left hand turn, waiting for a pedestrian to cross the street (while the pedestrian had a white “walk” signal no less), and the people behind me thought they would be cute and turn left behind me, coming within a foot of hitting the pedestrian.

Not only is this type of driving inconsiderate and dangerous, in Texas, it’s illegal.

Section 552.003 of the Texas Transportation Code requires drivers to yield the right of way to pedestrians who are crossing in a crosswalk when there’s no traffic signal in place.

As drivers, you need to know the law and yield to pedestrians.  That’s especially true as school is back in session and young kids are now using crosswalks to get to/from school or to/from their bus stops.    I just see too many cases where pedestrians suffer serious injuries because drivers don’t have the simple courtesy to follow the law.

Unfortunately, I don’t see this law enforced very often.  I hope APD or someone else do what they need to do to minimize the risks for these situations.

 

Back to School — Be Safe In School Zones

school busFor those of us in Austin, today is the first day of the new school  year.  As always, we need to mindful of school zones, especially the prohibition against cell phone use in school zones.

This year, the Austin Police Department is helping remind us, and perhaps not the easy way.  I heard a report this morning that for the next two weeks or so every Austin Police Department motorcycle officer would be deployed to school zones around the city.

Don’t have an unexpected meet-up with one of these officers.  Obey the speed limits, stay off your cell phone, don’t pass buses that are loading or unloading children, and stay safe.

Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP maintains offices in Austin, Texas. However, our attorneys and lawyers represent clients throughout the state of Texas, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Forth Worth, El Paso, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Round Rock, Georgetown, Lockhart, Bastrop, Elgin, Manor, Brenham, Cedar Park, Burnet, Marble Falls, Temple and Killeen. By Brooks Schuelke

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