Could Your Employee Medical Records Be Needed in Malpractice Lawsuits?

Most small business owners and other entrepreneurs never fully contemplate all of the issues that they’ll face once they start running their own business. Some of the most unforeseen outcomes are those related to the legal world. These issues can include liability insurance, personal injury claims and even environmental damage lawsuits. One legal issue that many business owners are likely to come across, however, is subpoenas for medical documents related to their employees. These are sometimes needed in medical malpractice lawsuits, and unfortunately, they can sometimes leave employers in a little legal trouble of their own.

medical records

Why Medical Records May Be Subpoenaed

There are numerous reasons why, in a medical malpractice lawsuit, an employer may be asked to hand over certain information about their employees medical health. The main reason, however, is to prove whether or not an employee had any illnesses or injuries before their medical mishap. Interestingly enough, several employee documents can help in these situations, including:

Employee insurance plans
Documentation related to sick days taken
Previous workers’ comp claims
Documentation of other issues at work

As previously mentioned, these documents can go towards showing whether a person had prior injuries or illnesses, and this can be vital during a medical malpractice suit. This type of suit, whether you consult a Montana lawyer or a Maryland medical malpractice attorney, must show that a doctor provided a sub-par level of care when compared to others in his field. In addition, this sub-par level of care must be what contributed to the harm that a patient received.

All of this simply means that even if a doctor was negligent in his level of care, he won’t have to pay compensation if he can prove that a patient was already having issues in relation to the alleged damage caused by the neglectful care. Similarly, these documents can go towards proving that an employee had been perfectly healthy before undergoing treatment from their doctor. In a medical malpractice suit, these records could be detrimental for either party to the suit.

When Employers May Disclose Info

Unfortunately, whenever parties of a medical malpractice suit decide to drag an employer into the mix, it puts that employer in danger of being held legally liable for certain acts as well. This usually makes it pertinent for an employer to get advice from a medical malpractice lawyer on what their rights and responsibilities are in this specific situation. Since these specialized attorneys work in this world every day, they know what may or may not get a business owner in trouble.

One major issue employers can run into is the Privacy Act of 1974. This law prohibits certain information from being disclosed about an employee short of having that employee consent to its release. This isn’t a problem when it’s the employee requesting the information, but when a medical institution instigates the request, this can lead to trouble. There are twelve exemptions that would require employers to disclose this information anyway, such as having a court order (not necessarily a subpoena), so it’s important to have someone knowledgeable about this specific area of law on hand.

Medical malpractice is a complex issue, and usually only experienced lawyers in the field know all of the system’s nuances. This means that even though an employer may never be a party to a medical malpractice suit, they should at least speak with an attorney who specializes in it. This will ensure that they avoid any liabilities in the sometimes likely event that they’re approached for these employee records. It can literally mean the difference between simply handing over a few documents and ending up in court themselves.

A former TV news writer, Ann Bailey posts these pointers for business owners regarding their employee medical records. The Maryland medical malpractice attorney group at Price Benowitz, LLP conscientiously represents victims of medical malpractice and is also able to advise employers about medical recording for personal injury claims.

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Ann Bailey is an artist and former TV journalist, and currently contributes articles in the arts, business and legal fields.

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