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Obtaining Hospital Medical Records After a Death of Someone

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If you have experienced the death of a loved one in a hospital, a period of shock and grief naturally occurs. The possibility that medical malpractice and/or negligence may have caused that death only heightens the level of personal anguish and suffering. Many people have no idea where to begin after losing a loved one from a possible medical mistake made in a hospital. They assume their first step would be to request a copy of the deceased patient’s hospital medical record.

At Jim Dodson Law, once we do our preliminary investigation into what happened and determine if there is a viable case, we will obtain any needed medical records on your behalf. Here are some considerations about why you might not want to obtain those records on your own.

The Complexity of Obtaining Hospital Medical Records

Medical records reflect the combined efforts of a number of healthcare professionals involved in patient care. A doctor has the primary responsibility of overseeing this process that includes history, physical examination, treatment plans, operation notes, medications, consent forms, referral papers, discharge records, and medical certificates. Records also indicate vital signs, diagnoses, nursing care, laboratory data, pharmacy data, allergies, immunization dates, diagnostic evaluations, and billing processes.

Since all patients’ medical records are protected from disclosure by federal privacy laws known as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), a formal request must be made through a signed consent and authorization for release of his or her medical records before being disclosed to a third party. These records are housed in the provider’s health information management (HIM) department—also known as the medical records or health information services department. What is not generally known is the potentially high cost of copies of records.

The Cost of Obtaining Medical Records

Charges for patient medical records in Florida can include a search fee, copy fees, X-ray fees, and microfilm fees. Hospitals typically charge by the page, with fees starting at $1 per page. That means a complete medical record could easily cost $500, $1000, or more to obtain. Creating copies of imaging tests and biopsy slides may cost between $10 to $120 per slide or page of film. Depending on the length of the hospital stay, the patient may have hundreds of pages of documentation.

As your attorney, we know what parts of the chart we need to request and examine. We do not ask our clients to pay up front for pertinent hospital records that we will use to evaluate their case. Once we receive and review the records, if we determine there is no viable lawsuit, we will not ask for reimbursement of those costs. If, however, there is a case and we are successful in pursuing financial recovery on your behalf, the cost of obtaining records—along with other lawsuit costs and attorney fees—are paid from the settlement.

Understanding Medical Records

Medical records can also be confusing to the average person who doesn’t have medical training. But a medical malpractice attorney will have reviewed hundreds of charts and will be aware of even a slight medical error, such as giving a drug intravenously instead of orally or by shot—a factor that could be the entire foundation of a wrongful death claim based on a medication error.

According to a 2019 New York Post article, “Medical misconduct has killed 468 people in New York City’s 11 public hospitals in the past five years, their shattered families allege in wrongful-death claims.” At least one of those patients, a pregnant woman, died from the failure of medical staff to notice that an X-ray showed she had an enlarged heart and missed symptoms of peritonitis—negligence that led to her own death and that of her baby. The medical record clearly contained vital information that could’ve saved two lives, and large damages were awarded to the deceased’s husband.

Asking for Help in a Difficult Time

Working with an experienced medical malpractice attorney in the event of a wrongful hospital death means getting the help you need during a painful, stressful period. Trusting reputable legal expertise, guidance, and advice gives vital support and affirms that you’re not alone in a time of crisis. The medical malpractice team at Jim Dodson Law has decades of experience handling complex medical malpractice cases based on hospital negligence. Just tell us what happened. If it sounds like there could be a viable case of hospital negligence, let us obtain the relevant records for you. It’s what we do.