Privacy rights in Spinal Cord Injury lawsuits
I feel like my privacy is being invaded by the insurance company and their attorneys. I filed a lawsuit over my spinal cord injury and now my medical records are being accessed by all these attorneys. I knew the records on my injury would have to be turned over to the court, but I feel like every medical problem I ever had is being scrutinized. What I can I do?
Ordinarily, Federal law and doctor-patient confidentiality protect the privacy of your medical records, but you temporarily waive these rights when you file a lawsuit claiming health problems or physical injury.
Since an injury can be due to factors other than those alleged in the lawsuit, the defendant in the suit and their attorneys have the right to obtain all of your medical records, even those that would not seem to directly pertain to the case. Some states mandate greater protection for psychological or psychiatric records, but the degree of this protection depends on the state and on the other facts of the case.
Advice on Changing Attorneys
In May 2009, my fifteen-year old daughter was partially paralyzed in an auto accident. We hired a lawyer within two weeks, but we are simply not satisfied with how the case is being handled. Is it too late to change lawyers?
You have the right to obtain a different attorney at any point in a case, but the longer the case has gone on the more problematic this can become.
One major factor is the statute of limitations. After you have received a spinal cord injury you usually have two years from the date of the initial trauma to file your claim; however, the length of time allowed does vary somewhat from state to state, so check to see what your state allows.
The length of time your lawyer can use to investigate your case is also governed by law. When you hire a lawyer he or she has the authority to gather records on your case, have you evaluated by independent medical experts, and thoroughly investigate the evidence before filing your case. After your lawsuit is filed there is a time period called “discovery.” The period allowed for discovery varies from state to state and the federal district courts also have their own regulations. The defense has access to medical records and the right to have the client evaluated by medical experts during the discovery period. Both sides can take depositions from the other party’s medical experts and from the witnesses.
It is best that a change in attorneys be done well before discovery ends. It is very difficult to get the court to admit new evidence after the close of discovery; an attorney retained after the discovery period closes will usually have to use the evidence already collected and this may not be adequate.
Compensation when it was partly my own fault
My spinal cord was injured in a car accident that was partly my fault. Am I still entitled to compensation?
As long as someone else was also at fault you may be entitled to compensation. Some states have no fault insurance laws; this means that your insurance company must pay your medical costs, even if the accident was your fault.
How much is Awarded in Spinal Cord Injury Cases?
My son recently received a spinal cord injury in an accident. How much compensation can we reasonably expect if we file suit?
The case value of a spinal cord injury case depends on a number of complex factors. The degree of injury and the amount of income lost from being unable to work are significant factors in the court’s determination of what you are entitled to. Once an amount is awarded you need to be aware that you will not receive all of it. You will receive the amount left over after the attorneys’ fees, court fees, and miscellaneous fees are paid.
Awards for spinal cord injury cases can vary from in the thousands to over several million dollars. To determine the amount possible for your particular case you should talk with an experienced spinal cord injury attorney.
Does my attorney need special knowledge to handle a spinal cord injury case?
I need a lawyer to represent me in a spinal cord injury case. Is it necessary that he or she be experienced in handling spinal cord injury cases?
Spinal cord injury law is complex. Your lawyer should be knowledgeable in spinal cord law and in the medical aspects of these injuries. A good track record of winning spinal cord injury cases is essential.
Before hiring an attorney to represent you in a spinal cord injury case, ask if they are have handled spinal cord injury cases before. Inquire whether they have spoken or published about spinal cord injury cases. Question them about their understanding of the difficulties of people with spinal cord injury. Although voluntary, board certification by the state bar, or state Supreme Court or the National Board of Trial Advocacy is a good sign that that the lawyer is highly qualified. Board certification requires that the attorney has been licensed to practiced law for five years and specialized in one area for three years; board certified attorneys have passed an evaluation by other lawyers and judges, along with a stringent written examination. Board certified attorneys are also required to take continuing education in their field.
Do I need a Lawyer?
My husband just suffered a spinal cord injury in a motorcycle wreck and I am still in a state of shock. Everyone is saying we need a lawyer, but do we? Won’t the insurance coverage take care of it?
As I am sure the doctors have told you, spinal cord injury cases are complex and the rate of any recovery of function is slow. Because laws on insurance coverage vary widely from state to state, you really should hire a lawyer to make sure you get the compensation coming to you. Let me explain. Some states are no-fault states which makes it easier for injured parties to receive compensation for an accident; a no fault law means that the injured party’s insurance company must pay their medical bills, no matter who caused the auto accident.
However, even in states with no fault laws, the insurance companies may still be difficult to deal with. Frequently, the insurance company must pre-approve any tests or treatments before they authorize payment. Some insurance companies are quick with such authorization, but many are not. You need expert help in dealing with the insurance companies during this stressful time.
In addition, you need to realize that even good insurance coverage will not cover the total cost of a spinal cord injury. The financial resources you need will depend on the degree of your husband’s spinal cord injury and the amount of care he will need during his recovery and throughout the rest of his life. Many people with spinal cord injuries are never able to return to work. An attorney experienced in dealing with spinal cord injury cases can help you receive financial compensation over and above the insurance payments.
BrainandSpinalCord.org works with a team of personal injury attorneys who are dedicated to getting you the compensation you deserve. We are experienced in brain injury cases and will guide you through the legal system. If you or someone you love has experienced a brain injury, we can help. Fill out the free case evaluation form on the right of your screen and one of our experienced attorneys will contact you and advise you on your legal rights. There is no obligation; please contact us today.
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