Mistake 8: Signing a General Health Authorization

     When you tell the insurance company that you were injured, they will send you a packet full of forms. I don’t recommend filling out any of these forms. One of these forms is a general authorization form. If you sign a general medical authorization form, you have authorized the insurance company to get your medical records for the last ten years from any doctor you ever went to, whether it is relevant or not relevant to the car accident.  With this authorization, if you sought psychological counseling three years ago right after your divorce, they’d have a right to request that.  They would have a right to request a woman’s OB/GYN medical records.  They would have a right to request records of any substance abuse counseling you had received.  They would have a right to order your primary care doctor’s records for the last five years to see if you ever went in for low back pain.  Signing a general health authorization is one of the most damaging things you can do to your case.  Is it relevant that you sought alcohol counseling three years ago after your mother died?  It’s not relevant at all.  Can the insurance company use it to damage your credibility and to lower the value of your case?  Yes, they can.  You should control the flow of information that you give to the insurance company. When you get your medical records and bills together for the insurance company, you control that information.  You give them the information that’s relevant to the case.  This is critical.  If you sign a general authorization, you give all that control to them, and give them the ability to reduce the value of your case.  They can then say, "Well, three years ago we see that you hurt your lower back," and they can start arguing with you by saying, "Well, maybe some of your injuries are from that," even though you hadn’t sought a doctor’s care in two years. They will use anything in your records to reduce the value of your case.

 Sometimes there are other forms they ask you to fill out.  Be careful
     One of those forms very well could say, "What did you hurt in the accident?”  If you talk about your back and neck and forget to put your knee down, guess what?  They may not pay for your knee treatment.  If they ask you what happened in the accident, and you describe something and you misstate it, guess what?  They may now dispute liability.  If you write down the wrong number for your property damage, guess what?  Even though they know what the amount is, is it possible they’ll use it against you to try to argue with you?  Yes.  Filling out insurance company forms is just like anything else.  The forms are designed by them to help them pay you less money on your case.  Why would an insurance company need to ask you on a form what happened in the accident when they’ve already had you give them a recorded statement, when they’ve already seen the police report, and they’ve already talked to their insured?  There’s only one reason and that’s to try to minimize the value of your case to look for any differences in these four statements and try to use them against you.  The same is for medical records and forms.

     Along those lines, signing a release is a bad idea.  A release from the insurance company ends your case.  I would not sign any form without reading it in full, making sure it’s not a bodily injury release, or general release, extinguishing your claim.  Once you sign a release, your case is over.  It doesn’t matter if two days after that you decide you need surgery or you find out some other information.  Once you sign a release and take an insurance company’s money, your bodily injury case is over.  Be sure to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney before signing any forms from the insurance company.

Shane Smith
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Advocate for the Seriously Injured in Georgia

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