Can You Sue a Doctor for Losing Your Medical Records?

Can You Sue a Doctor for Losing Your Medical Records?

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Can You Sue a Doctor for Losing Your Medical Records?

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:

  • Patients
  • Parents or guardians of a patient
  • Doctors
  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Labs
  • 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. 

Surgery Mistakes

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

Birth Injuries

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. 

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  • Where Else Can I Obtain My Medical Records?

    Medical records can include doctor’s notes, diagnostic test results, lab reports, and others. Previously, primary medical providers held all of their patient’s medical records. However, this system proved problematic, especially when a medical practice closed down suddenly and patients’ records simply “disappeared”. Therefore, more recently, many patients have started to take responsibility for storing and retaining their own medical records. 

    However, getting your records in the first place can be tricky if your doctor has destroyed or lost them. However, patients may have some other options to retrieve medical records, such as:

    • Requesting claims information from their health insurance provider
    • Contacting the laboratory that provided bloodwork results
    • Contacting an imaging center for CDs of scans and the accompanying reports
    • Contacting a pharmacy to request copies of medication prescription reports
  • What Should I Do if I Filed a Medical Malpractice Case and My Doctor Lost Important Medical Records?

    It is not unusual for medical records to get lost or destroyed. Losing documents that are essential for proving negligence may not necessarily result in losing your case, especially if you suspect that a doctor or hospital deliberately disposed of your medical records. Lost or damaged evidence is also called “spoliation” in legal terms. If your doctor deliberately destroyed your medical records during legal proceedings of a medical malpractice case, they could be guilty of spoliation, which can potentially strengthen your case. 

    Therefore, you could still pursue compensation even if crucial records are missing. However, having an experienced and tenacious attorney by your side can be critical in such complex and challenging medical malpractice cases.

  • What Is the Average Settlement in a Medical Malpractice Case?

    The amount victims can receive will vary depending on their injury, damages, and the facts of their medical malpractice case. A settlement is intended to make the victim “whole” again and to reimburse them for the financial, physical, and emotional damages they suffered as a result of the medical malpractice. 

    Therefore, in cases where the loss of records or test results caused great harm, for example, delayed cancer treatment or death, victims and their families could demand high damages. An individual who is permanently disabled or has a shortened life expectancy due to medical malpractice could receive a seven-figure settlement. However, since compensation depends on various factors, consider consulting with a medical malpractice attorney to find out the potential value of your case. 

  • Is There a Time Limit for Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

    If you intend to sue a doctor for losing your medical records, the time for filing a lawsuit will be limited. In some states, the deadline can be as short as one year. Moreover, certain factors could extend or shorten the time available for filing a suit. For example, if your doctor deliberately destroyed your medical records, causing a delay in legal proceedings, you may be able to get an extension of the filing deadline. 

    However, ensure to protect your legal rights by discussing your individual case with a medical malpractice attorney who can guide you through the legal system and determine the best timing to file suit. You could lose your rights to legal recourse and compensation if you file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations in your state has passed.

  • Do I Need a Lawyer to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

    Medical malpractice cases can involve complex medical and legal issues and tend to be challenging and costly to litigate. In many cases, several medical expert witnesses are required to testify. Victims of medical malpractice can underestimate the legal knowledge required to litigate a medical malpractice case successfully. While victims can potentially represent themselves in some minor personal injury cases, this is not recommended with medical malpractice lawsuits. You could be up against experienced teams of trial lawyers representing a hospital or medical center. 

    Moreover, making a simple mistake such as filling out paperwork incorrectly or missing an important deadline could result in your case getting thrown out despite having a good chance of success. A medical malpractice attorney can protect your rights, deal with all legal issues and paperwork on your behalf, and work tirelessly for maximum recovery.

  • Our Medical Malpractice Attorneys Can Fight for You 

    Medical malpractice, in whatever form, can cause great physical, emotional, and financial damage to a patient. While no amount of compensation can restore your health, a settlement can go a long way to pay for medical treatments and other essentials you need to go on with your life. 

    Our tenacious medical malpractice lawyers can advise you comprehensively and handle all legal aspects of your claim, leaving you free to concentrate on your recovery and well-being. We could:

    • Advocate for you and provide legal guidance
    • Handle all paperwork for filing the lawsuit
    • Help to recover your important medical records from labs, your insurer, and other sources 
    • Prove negligence of a doctor or hospital
    • Provide medical expert witnesses to testify in your claim
    • Take your case to trial and fight vigorously for your rights

    Morgan & Morgan’s medical malpractice attorneys have been fighting for the rights of medical malpractice victims for decades. We can fight tirelessly for the compensation you deserve. If you have suffered harm due to a medical provider losing your records, we understand what you are going through and stand by your side. Our fee is free unless and until we recover compensation for you. Contact us today to determine for free whether you can sue a doctor for losing your medical records.

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