How does Physician-Patient Privilege Affect Wrongful Death Cases?
Physician-patient privilege is a legal concept that protects a patient’s right to privacy of their medical records. This means that without a patient’s consent, a physician is not usually permitted to share their patient’s private or protected health information with anyone. There are some exceptions to physician-patient privilege, including a court order for medical records.
The protection of patient records becomes difficult after someone is deceased, with some believing that a patient’s privacy should continue after their death while others believe that privacy should end after death.
The role of medical records in wrongful death claims
When it comes to wrongful death claims, medical records play an important role in providing evidence. Wrongful death lawyers gather medical records as part of building the case for the decedent’s loved ones. If you believe that you lost an immediate family member in a wrongful death situation, seek the help of an experienced wrongful death attorney. The wrongful death lawyer can discuss your legal rights and let you know how to proceed.
Waiver of the privilege
In Washington State, a personal injury or wrongful death claimant may waive the physician-patient privilege and access medical records. Even in states where obtaining the decedent’s medical records may be a grey area, most objections can be overcome by stating that the claimant is looking for records to gather information for future litigation, particularly if the deceased had a long-term health condition relevant to the case.
As written in RCW § 5.60.060(4)(b): “Ninety days after filing an action for personal injuries or wrongful death, the claimant shall be deemed to waive the physician-patient privilege.”
Filing a waiver
In Washington State, a representative of the estate brings the claim on behalf of immediate family members. Once the representative is appointed, the decedent’s medical records can be requested. The release of medical records is typically handled in such a way as to only reveal information relevant to the claim and to avoid disgracing the memory of the deceased.
Does a waiver of the physician-patient privilege for one physician or condition allow for a waiver of privilege for all physicians or conditions?
Yes, in Washington State a waiver of physician-patient privilege for one physician or condition means a waiver of privilege for all.
As written in RCW § 5.60.060(4)(b), a “Waiver of the physician-patient privilege for any one physician or condition constitutes a waiver of the privilege as to all physicians or conditions, subject to such limitations as a court may impose pursuant to court rules.”
Seek the help of a wrongful death attorney
If you lost a loved one due to a preventable medical error or the reckless/negligent behavior of another, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced wrongful death attorney fight for justice on your behalf. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times larger with the help of a wrongful death lawyer. Call the most experienced practicing wrongful death attorneys Bellingham has at Tario & Associates, P.S. today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing grieving family members in Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!