Physicians and healthcare professionals are legally required to document and maintain accurate, comprehensive medical records in order to provide patients with the best possible care. But how long are they required to keep these medical records on file?
According to the Canadian Medical Association, legal claims against physicians in British Columbia can be made up to 15 years after any alleged malpractice occurred. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC) advises doctors to keep their records for 16 years after the last patient visit.
However, this advice also applies to patients. It is recommended that patients keep their medical records for at least 16 years after their last encounter with the doctor. If the patient is younger than 19, keep them for 16 years after the patients turns 19.
If you were injured in a car accident, for example, the timeline for filing a lawsuit is known as the “limitation period.” Typically, an injured person must file a lawsuit within two years of the accident, or they will lose their right to pursue compensation.
When it comes to claims with ICBC, you should notify them within two days of an accident, provide a written statement within 30 days, and you have 90 days to apply for “Part 7” or “no fault” benefits.
If you have been hospitalized for a serious accident or illness, it is wise to obtain a copy of your updated medical records and keep them on hand for at least 2 years and possibly as long as 16 years to make sure you are protected and can file a claim within the limitation period if necessary.
Why Medical Records Are Important
Medical records are important because they help physicians and healthcare providers provide patients with better, more accurate care. By knowing a patient’s medical history, previous treatments or illnesses, as well as other practices they have visited, a physician is able to provide better care to the patient.
Other important aspects of medical records include:
- Documentation of Medical History – Medical records are important because they document everything. This includes vaccination and immunizations, previous illnesses, procedures, and exams. Medical records are an important document to have if you have been injured in an accident and need to show the nature and extent of your injuries as recorded by a medical professional.
- Record of Billing – Medical records are also a detailed record of your medical expenses. If you have been injured in an accident, your medical record will show how much it cost for treatment and recovery. If you are seeking compensation from the party responsible for your injuries, your medical records will likely go a long way in helping you secure proper compensation for your injuries.
- Facilitate Proper Care – Detailed and comprehensive medical records allow each caregiver seen by the patient to understand the patient’s condition and previous medical issues. Medical records record the patient’s every visit to the doctor, and they also record what the patient was treated for. Medical records work to prevent any medical errors from occurring. Doctors should not have to guess about your previous medical history, so it is important to have your own copy of your medical records.
How Do I Obtain a Copy of My Medical Records?
Medical records are the property of the doctor, healthcare professional, hospital, or whoever created the record. However, the information inside the medical record does belong to you.
Getting your hands on your medical records can sometimes be tricky, depending on the healthcare professionals you are dealing with. You can ask your doctor to see your records and they should show you. If you would like a copy of your medical records, however, some doctors may charge you a fee to make a copy.
If a doctor or hospital refuses to let you see your medical records, you should seek legal help immediately.
ICBC and Medical Records
In the event of illness or injury, your medical records are among the first things a doctor will consult when treating you. Medical records help the doctor give you the best care possible by listing all of your preexisting conditions, previous healthcare issues and treatments, and even basic information about your health habits. The injuries sustained from an accident will be thoroughly documented in your medical records for future reference.
Oftentimes an ICBC adjuster will request your medical records after an accident to help process your injury claim. An ICBC adjuster may ask you to sign a release form allowing access to your medical records. However, it is important to understand that an ICBC adjuster may not always have your best interests in mind and may be looking out for the company’s bottom line.
An important thing to consider before signing the medical release form over to an ICBC adjuster is how much of your medical records that you want an adjuster to see. An ICBC adjuster is merely supposed to have access to parts of your medical records pertaining to the specific injuries sustained from your accident. In the medical release form, many adjusters request to view all your medical records leading up to the accident including previous medical conditions, previous injuries, prescriptions, or pre-existing conditions.
Giving access to this information to an ICBC adjuster could damage your case and may be used against you. An adjuster may dispute your injury claim by asserting that your injuries were not sustained in the accident and were part of a pre-existing condition. This unfair and incorrect determination will likely diminish your legal claim and ultimately leave you with little to no compensation for your injuries.
If you or a loved one was injured in an accident or was the victim of medical malpractice, you may find that having a copy of your medical records will go a long way to proving your claim if you need to pursue legal action. Whether you were hurt in an accident caused by someone else’s reckless or negligent actions, or if you were harmed by a doctor or medical staff member, you should have access to all of the relevant information to help prove your claims and secure the compensation you are owed.
The legal team at Klein Lawyers, LLP, has two decades of experience helping injured people in Vancouver and across British Columbia with ICBC accident claims. We’re ready to help you. Call us, chat with us live on our website, or fill out our contact form to get started on your case today.