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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

Don’t Let Facebook (or Twitter, or Instagram, or other social media) Ruin Your Personal Injury Claim

facebookAn increasing trend in personal injury litigation is for insurance companies and their lawyers trying to gain access to your social networking sites.  Sometimes this includes the use of trickery to get access to your information.    Once there, they’ll take statements or photos entirely out of context to try and argue that you’re not as hurt as you claim.

I’ve never had a client harmed by social media, but I don’t want you to be the first.

Some attorneys suggest that their clients cease all use of social media while the client’s case is pending.  While that would be nice, I also think it’s unrealistic.  I know social media has become a part of culture and life.

So if you’re going to continue to use social media, here are a few guidelines that can help you not ruin your case.

1.  Don’t discuss your case in any fashion on a social networking site.

2. Don’t mention activities you’re involved in; no talking about hobbies, vacations, etc.

3. Don’t post photos of yourself.  Trust me, they’ll be taken out of context in ways you can never imagine.

4. Keep your privacy settings strong.

5. Don’t allow a new “friend” unless you absolutely know who they are and trust them.  There are repeated stories of insurance company representatives trying to “friend” injured persons to get access to the injured persons’ social media sites.

These are just general guidelines.  If you are injured and want more specific advice, feel free to call us or contact us.

How Do I Settle A Claim With An Insurance Company Amicably?

This is another question I recently received.

A person was injured in a car wreck, they submitted a demand letter, and tried to negotiate, but the insurance company was stonewalling them.  What are they supposed to do?

There isn’t a good answer for someone in this situation.  Insurance companies may engage in stonewalling tactics that are designed to get you to accept less than the full value of your claim.

When you hire us, and this happens, our response is to file suit.  That’s the alternative and the hammer you can use to get a new adjuster, get a new perspective to the insurance company from a lawyer and to prove that you can enforce the claim.

But if you’re trying to represent yourself, you don’t have that option.  As a result, the insurance company, knowing that you don’t have a real alternative, doesn’t have an incentive to pay the full value of your claim.

This type of conduct is one of the reasons that insurance company studies find that claimants who are represented by lawyers do substantially better overall than those who try to represent themselves.

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news to people in this situation.

Will Austin Ban Use of Cell Phones While Driving?

A lot of momentum seems to be developing for the idea that Austin will ban drivers from using hand-held devices while driving.  In February, the Austin City Council appointed a Distracted Driving Study Group to look at the problem of distracted driving.  On Monday, the study group released a memo recommending that the city council outlaw the use of handheld devices while driving.  There seem to be two main reasons for this.  One, using a hand held cell phone while driving can be distracting and dangerous.  Two, making it illegal to use hand held devices would make it easier to enforce the ban on texting whiile driving (now it’s difficult to tell is someone is texting or dialing a phone number).

I’ll keep you posted on the story as details emerge.  In the meantime, KXAN has done a nice story on the issue.  You can watch it below.

 

I was hit by a drunk driver. Does that affect the value of my case?

This is a question that I’ve received a few times.  And the answer is, “Being hit by a drunk driver should increase the value of your case, but it doesn’t always.”

What do I mean?  Obviously, if the jury knows that you were hit by a drunk driver, they would get mad at the drunk driver and likely award you more money.  The trick is whether the jury gets to hear you were hit by a drunk driver.  Defense lawyers will go to great lengths to ask the judge to hide from the jury the fact that the driver who hit you was drunk or under the influence of drugs because knowing that might be prejudicial to the driver.   There are tricks the defense lawyer will use to try and make this happen.

Fortunately, there are a number of tactics for our side to help us increase the likelihood that the jury gets to hear that the other driver was drunk.  Unfortunately, there are too many plaintiff’s lawyers who don’t know these tactics.

If you’re hurt by a drunk driver, you need to do your homework and make sure your lawyer knows these tactics.  Ask your lawyer what he or she might do to help increase the odds that the facts regarding the other driver’s drinking are admissible.  Ask your lawyer what trial lawyer organizations he or she belongs to help stay educated on the evolution of these tactics.  Make sure the lawyer you want to hire is qualified to maximize the value of your claim.

Posted on: July 25, 2014 |

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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