It’s an innocuous-looking form. But what damage it can potentially cause.
The problem is ICBC’s “Authorization to Provide Medical Information.” If you’re injured in a car accident, ICBC routinely asks you to sign this form. It authorizes your doctor, chiropractor, physiotherapist and others who’ve treated you to provide ICBC with copies of your medical records. Assuming responsibility for the accident isn’t in issue, ICBC uses these medical records to come to an assessment of your injuries and determine the amount to offer you by way of a settlement.
So far, so good. The form even says that while it authorizes release of your medical history and physical condition both before and after the accident, “regardless of lapsed time,” the information should relate in some way to the injuries received.
In practice, however, ICBC often gets a hold of some very personal medical information that has nothing to do with the accident, which can cause claimants a lot of grief.
In one case, the claimant (let’s call her “Janet”) suffered a simple whiplash as a result of a car accident. She wasn’t making any claim for psychological injuries caused or aggravated by the accident. In the course of her dealings with ICBC, she signed the release form. She then hired a lawyer, who asked ICBC to send over copies of all Janet’s medical records that ICBC had obtained.
When the lawyer reviewed the records, he discovered ICBC had reams of information about Janet’s lengthy five-year history of depression from before the accident. Needless to say, Janet was extremely upset about ICBC having access to information which she rightly believed was none of its business.
The fact is, if you have been treated for ovarian or prostate cancer, or prescribed Prozac for depression or Viagra for erectile dysfunction, there’s no reason for ICBC to see this information if it isn’t relevant to your legal case. The adjuster, the supervisor, the ICBC unit manager and perhaps others within ICBC all have access to this information. Adjusters also change, so there’s a good chance that at least two adjusters will look at your file, in addition to the supervisors up the chain. This is personal information, which ICBC doesn’t have a right to see (assuming it’s not connected to your accident injuries).
One difficulty is that, in most cases, doctors and medical practitioners don’t screen your medical records before sending them off to ICBC, as editing them can be a time-consuming exercise. ICBC can therefore get everything from years and years before the accident.
But ICBC is also understandably interested in reviewing your past medical history from before to see if you’ve made previous complaints similiar to the complaints arising out of the accident. If you’ve complained before of back pain, the argument can be made that the pain you’ve been experiencing since the accident wasn’t caused by the accident, but is an old problem for which you shouldn’t be compensated. Depending on the circumstances, it may be a relevant issue. For instance, if you’ve had repetitive injury to the same area of your body, understanding your past medical history is critical.
Most lawyers will protect the privacy of your medical records by blocking out personal and confidential information that’s irrelevant to your claim. They will only give ICBC relevant medical information. You should consult a lawyer before signing any documents or releases in a personal injury claim.
Janice Mucalov, LL.B. for Gertsoyg & Company. This column provides information only and must not be relied on for legal advice. Please call Gertsoyg & Company at (604) 602-3066 for a free legal consultation concerning your particular case.