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.

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.

 

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.

I Waited Two Months To Go To The Doctor. Do I Still Have A Case?

I received this question the other day, and I thought others might be interested in the answer as well.

The short answer is “yes.”  Just because you didn’t immediately go to the doctor does not mean that you were not hurt and that you don’t have a case.

But those types of delay do make presenting your personal injury claim much more difficult.  Insurance companies are looking for any small excuse they can find to not pay your claim.  And a “gap in treatment” (as described in the question) is one of the key factors they rely on to defeat claims.

That’s not to say that I agree with insurance companies or that a gap kills your case.  I know a number of people who just don’t like to go to the doctor.  They’ll suffer an injury and try to wait on the problem to resolve to see if they can avoid going to the doctor.  Others simply can’t go to the doctor as soon as they would like.  Perhaps they can’t afford a doctor’s visit, don’t have time to go to the doctor, etc.

So while this type of gap doesn’t mean you no longer have a claim, it can make your claim much more difficult.

National Safe Boating Week: Choosing The Right Life Jacket

It’s not enough to have the life jacket.  You need to make sure you have the right life jacket for your size, your activities, and the water conditions you might be encountering.

The Safe Boating Council has these guidelines:

Try It On

  • Check the manufacturer’s ratings for your size and weight.
  • Make sure the life jacket is properly zipped or buckled.
  • Raise your arms straight up over your head while wearing your life jacket and ask a friend to grasp the tops of the arm openings, gently pulling up.
  • If there is excess room above the openings and the life jacket rides up over your chin or face, it does NOT fit properly. A snug fit in these areas signals a properly fitting life jacket.

Fit Facts

  • It is extremely important that you choose a properly fitting life jacket.
  • Life jackets that are too big will cause the flotation device to push up around your face, which could be dangerous.
  • Life jackets that are too small will not be able to keep your body afloat.

Important Reminders

  • Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved.
  • Double check that your life jacket is appropriate for your favorite water activities.
  • Take the time to ensure a proper fit. A life jacket that is too large or too small can cause different situational problems.
  • Life jackets meant for adults do not work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to “grow into.”

National Safe Boating Week: The Statistics

Why is Safe Boating Week important?  Here are the statistics from the Safe Boating Council.

All figures are from the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2012 Recreational Boating Safety Statistics, the latest official record of reported recreational boating accidents. The full report is available online at: www.USCGBoating.org/statistics/accident_statistics.aspx.

  • Drowning was reported as the cause of death in almost three-fourths of all fatalities.
  • Approximately 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
  • In 2012, the Coast Guard counted 4,515 accidents that involved 651 deaths, 3,000 injuries and approximately $38 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.
  • Approximately 14 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction.
  • Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure and excessive speed are the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.
  • Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 17 percent of the deaths.
  • Twenty-four children under age thirteen lost their lives while boating in 2012. Forty-two percent of the children who died in 2012 did so from drowning.
  • The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (47%), personal watercraft (19%) and cabin motorboats (15%).

National Recreational Boating Statistics

  • Fatalities: 651
  • Drownings: 459
  • Injuries (requiring medical treatment beyond first aid): 3,000
  • Boating Accidents: 4,515
  • Property Damage: $38,011,601
  • Number of registered recreational boats in the U.S.: 12,101,936

Unfortunately, Texas is the number 3 state for boating deaths and the number 4 state for boating accidents.

Remember to be safe.  Don’t let you or your family become another statistic.

 

 

National Safe Boating Week: Wear Your Life Jacket

http://www.iclipart.com/dodl.php?linklokauth=LzAzMS9iYXRjaF80Mi9MaWZlX0phY2tldF9SZXF1aXJlZF8yLmpwZywxNDAwMjY0OTgzLDI0LjczLjI0NC4yMTgsMCwwLExMXzAsLGE5MTc1NWM4YjYxNWQ5ZjYzZjAxOTFkNTdmNWVjYzc5/Life_Jacket_Required_2.jpgI’m going to talk about statistics later in the week, but I wanted to start with the most important safety advice for boating: WEAR YOUR LIFE JACKET.

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in almost three-fourths of recreational boating fatalities in 2012 and that 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

I know when I was a kid and my dad lived on Lake Austin, I couldn’t wait to turn 14 so I wouldn’t have to wear a life jacket.  Frankly, I was an idiot.  Too many things can easily go wrong if you’re not wearing your life jacket.  In most emergencies, you won’t have time to get life jackets out of storage and pass out to all your guests.  Or heaven forbid you hit your head on something and get knocked unconscious.  Wearing a life jacket in advance is the only way to protect you in those circumstances.

Don’t let your vanity cost you your life.

National Safe Boating Week Is Here

ski boatThis year, May 17-23 is National Safe Boating Week.  Having represented those involved in boating and water based accidents, I know the importance of these safety measures.

Over the course of the week, I’ll have a few posts detailing the dangers and safety measures related to safe boating.  For today, I’ll give you the big overview of what you should do to make your trips out on our waterways just a little safer.

1. Avoid drinking and driving. This should go without saying, but a significant percentage of boating accidents involve alcohol.  Even worse, being on the water magnifies the effects of alcohol.  I’ve heard that one drink on the water is equal to four drinks on land.  I’m not sure that’s completely accurate, but it’s probably close.

2. Use your lights. Austin Lake Police have indicated that one of the biggest risks of danger is night time collisions.

3. Wear your life vest. The law requires you to have one life jacket on the boat for each person.  But if something goes wrong, you might not have the opportunity to grab a life jacket from storage.  Be safe and wear it instead.

4. Look out for others. As the lake crowds increase, make sure you are cognizant of other skiiers, tubers and wakeboarders. And always remember that as you follow, they could fall in an instant. On the other hand, when you voluntarily stop to get in and out of the water, make sure that you are doing so in as safe a place as possible.

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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