What is the number one reason for a delay in the evaluation of my medical malpractice case?
Here's an example: Client "X" comes to our office with a box that contains a "complete set of the medical records" in a potential malpractice case involving a perforated intestine that ultimately causes death. The box contains the operative report, discharge summary, and admission note, but does not include progress notes, lab reports, reports of imaging studies and consultation reports. The medical records provided to us barely skim the surface of the records that we need to evaluate the case and hence, we must tell Client "X" that we will need to get the missing records from the hospital.
In roughly 8 out of 10 cases where clients bring a "complete set of medical records" to us, the medical records are incomplete and we have to make a new request for the missing records. This is usually not a big deal, but it often takes 2-4 weeks for hospitals to respond to requests for medical records and if the statute of limitations is about to expire, there may not be enough time to get the missing medical records.
While medical records departments of hospitals and physicians will provide you with incomplete medical records in 8 out of 10 cases, there is a solution! You have the right, under section 18 of New York's Public Health Law, to inspect the hard copy of the medical records at the hospital or physicians' office. We inspect the physical records and scan them in color in order to ensure we possess every single page of the medical records. There is nothing that prevents Client "X" from doing the same.
Tip for the day: Call the medical records department of the hospital or physician and ask them to schedule a time for you to inspect and (if you have a color scanner) scan the medical records. If the medical records custodian balks at this request, remind him/her that section 18 of the Public Health Law gives you this right and if they still refuse, tell him/her that you intend to file a complaint with the New York State Department of Health for refusing to give you access to your medical records. This should get you the complete set of medical records that you want!