With how information is shared today, it can seem like everyone has unlimited access to information through a variety of means. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, believes in a person’s right to privacy. When an accident victim files a personal injury case, they have privacy rights that are important to be aware of. If you’re the plaintiff in that type of case, knowing what you need to disclose versus what you can keep private can help you build a strong case. Your lawyer will be able to explain your rights to you as they apply to your circumstances, but let’s go over the basics.
Sharing Information for a Personal Injury Case
When you file a personal injury claim the defendant will want to collect evidence that proves you aren’t owed the compensation you’re seeking. Typical forms of evidence, aside from what’s collected at the scene, include records of medical expenses or hospital bills and information about your personal life.
Fortunately for accident victims, there are state and federal laws that protect individuals’ rights to privacy. The most common federal protection laws include the Privacy Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Electronic Communications Privacy Act, Financial Modernization Act, and Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
Mississippi protects the privacy of personal injury victims in a number of ways, as well. Your lawyer will have a complete understanding of the laws so that when your information is requested, they know when to decline. Types of information that opposing parties could try to access include:
Medical records contain a significant amount of information. Typically, a patient’s history of vaccinations, illnesses, surgeries, hospital stays, and other treatments are included. According to Mississippi law, medical records are the property of the facility that produced them. This could be a doctor’s office, hospital, or urgent care clinic. The patient, however, is allowed to request and obtain a copy of their records during regular business hours.
When it comes to filing a personal injury case where you’re seeking compensation for medical bills and expenses, the defendant will likely request your records. They may try to use the information against you. It’s important to remember that you have to give permission to release the records. Your lawyer will make sure you have a complete understanding of the consent form or release if providing the information is necessary. In most cases, you’ll benefit from only giving them limited access.
Mental Health Records
In Mississippi, according to HealthIT, information regarding a patient’s mental health treatment is restricted by an authorization requirement. This means that a release is needed to disclose mental health information. This requirement is stronger than the HIPAA standard, which states that patient authorization is not required for treatment, payment, and healthcare operations.
There is no provision in Mississippi that states when employees are allowed to inspect their own personnel files. Insurance companies or defendants, however, cannot discover certain information contained in employment records. If there seems to be a compelling need for information from a record, the information released will be extremely limited.
Financial affairs include bank records, tax records, financial statements, and pay stubs. In most cases, a victim’s financial situation is not discoverable, even if it’s relevant to the claim. If compensation is being sought for lost wages for future loss of income, the opposing party may be able to request access to relevant documents.
Your lawyer will ensure your financial affairs are kept private unless absolutely necessary. If as mentioned above, pay stubs are necessary to determine lost wages, those should be the only documents needed. Income tax statements are not normally discoverable in personal injury cases.
Third Party Privacy Rights
When you file a personal injury claim, information that is protected as third-party information may be requested. For example, if a plaintiff’s family member has a condition that’s genetic and could explain some of the victim’s injuries or medical needs, the defendant could try to use that to reduce compensation. The person filing the claim, however, can assert that family member’s right to privacy.
Protecting Your Privacy Rights
There may be times when your privacy is challenged during a personal injury case. When you work with a lawyer from Pittman, Roberts & Welsh, PLLC, we’ll make sure only the relevant and necessary information is disclosed. If necessary, we can help you file a protective order or other requests that protect your information from being disclosed. To learn more about your privacy rights as a plaintiff in a personal injury case, contact us today.