Losing your medical records can be frustrating and upsetting. If you are wondering whether you can sue a doctor for losing your medical records, the answer is: it depends. Generally, a medical provider or hospital merely losing your documents does not give you grounds for filing a lawsuit. However, if a doctor or healthcare facility lost your medical records or test results and you suffered harm as a result, you can potentially sue and recover compensation.
Losing records and test results can result in medical malpractice in some cases, for example, when the missing information causes a missed or late diagnosis. If you or a loved one suffered medical malpractice, Morgan & Morgan could help. Our experienced and determined medical malpractice lawyers have helped countless patients receive the compensation they need to pay their medical bills and rebuild their lives. Contact us now for a free consultation to find out whether you could pursue compensation from a negligent medical provider.
How to Get Your Medical Records
According to the Health insurance Portability and Accounting Act (HIPAA), obtaining your medical records such as test results and doctor’s notes is your legal right. Normally, patients can get copies of their medical records by filling out a request form at their primary care office or writing a letter requesting the documents. Those generally entitled to request medical records include:
- Parents or guardians of a patient
- Rehabilitation centers
- Healthcare powers of attorney
Others who may be entitled access to a patient’s medical records include nursing homes, insurance companies, and billing providers.
Your medical records may be shared among several medical providers and other entities, such as your primary doctor, a hospital, or an insurance provider. Therefore, you could potentially obtain your copies from these sources when your doctor has destroyed or lost the records. Moreover, if you are looking for particular test results, you could directly request them from a lab, imaging center, or hospital.
Instances Where Providers Can Deny Access to Records
In some limited circumstances, medical providers can deny access to a patient’s medical records, including:
- Psychotherapy notes
- Medical information compiled for a lawsuit
It is important to note that medical records are not available indefinitely and legally can be destroyed after several years. How long your medical records are retained will depend on the type of record, your state’s laws, and where the records are held. Generally, medical providers should keep medical records for at least seven years.
When You Could Sue a Doctor or Hospital
When a medical provider loses or destroys medical records, patients could face a wrong or delayed diagnosis. This can result in medical treatment delays and additional medical bills due to repeating diagnostic tests. With some conditions, such as aggressive cancers, a delay in diagnosis and treatment can have devastating and fatal consequences. A patient whose medical care was delayed may have to undergo more aggressive therapies or face a reduced life expectancy.
If you or a loved one suffered harm due to a doctor losing your medical records or test results, you could potentially have a case and sue a doctor or medical center. A medical malpractice attorney at Morgan & Morgan can determine whether you have a case and move forward with a legal claim.
Proving Medical Malpractice
According to Johns Hopkins University, medical malpractice is increasingly common in the US. However, to sue a doctor for losing your medical records, you would need to have a case against them for malpractice and not simply for losing your records.
In other words, a patient has to prove that a doctor or hospital failed to adhere to the standard of medical care, and that:
- A doctor and patient relationship existed
- The doctor breached their duty towards the patient
- The patient suffered an injury and damages as a result
What Qualifies as Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice cases can potentially arise during surgery, childbirth, and many other circumstances. Malpractice occurs when a doctor or hospital fails to follow the standard of care, causing injury to a patient. The consequences of losing medical records can, in some cases, lead to a medical malpractice claim. Examples of medical malpractice include:
Late Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis
If your doctor lost your medical records, misdiagnosis or late diagnosis could occur. When a late or misdiagnosis impacts your health and causes a deterioration of your disease or condition, you could file a medical malpractice claim.
Lost medical records could lead to surgical errors or mistakes in aftercare and discharge. Surgeons must know of a patient’s medical conditions and medications to safely operate on them. This information is generally available in the patient’s medical records. Examples of surgical mistakes include:
- Wrong-patient surgery
- Wrong-site surgery
- Anesthesia errors
- Failing to monitor the patient during and after surgery
Labor and delivery can be complicated by a mother’s medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and others. Losing important medical records or test results can potentially put mother and child at risk and result in irreversible damage to a newborn. The emotional effects and lifelong medical expenses resulting from a birth injury can be devastating for the entire family.
There can be many other types of medical malpractice claims. Therefore, seeking legal advice can be crucial if you think you or a loved one has a medical malpractice case. Our compassionate medical malpractice attorneys can give you the personal time and attention you need and clarify your options for moving forward.
Compensation in Medical Malpractice Cases
If you suffered pain, emotional distress, and financial damages due to medical negligence, you could hold a doctor or hospital accountable and recover damages. However, no two medical malpractice claims are the same. Therefore, what you could receive will be specific to your case and the injuries and damages you sustained. Generally, victims of medical malpractice could recover:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Lost income and future lost earnings
- Medical transportation costs
- Rehabilitation costs such as physical therapy
- Costs for medications and medical devices
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Long-term care costs
You could also be entitled to so-called non-economic damages, including awards for:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish
- Permanent disability
- Reduced life quality
You could also receive other types of compensation. Our experienced medical malpractice lawyers can assess your damages and the potential worth of your case.