What medical records do I need for an evaluation of my malpractice case?

The knee-jerk reaction of most lawyers and their clients is to get all of the medical records from a hospital stay.  But, unfortunately, that can be an expensive proposition for lengthy hospital stays of more than a day or two.  When the hospitalization lasts 3 days, you might be charged $400-$500 for the hospital records.

So, what do you do?  Bite the bullet and send the check to the hospital?  Au contraire, my friend.  Depending on the issues in your malpractice case, you may only need 5-10 pages of the hospital chart.  Let's say, for example, you have a case involving a botched operation that led to a 5 day hospitalization.  Instead of asking for the "complete" medical records, you might start by asking for the operative report, discharge summary and the consultation reports.  This will give you the information you need for an evaluation of your case and the photocopy charge for these records will likely cost less than $10.

The remaining hospital records, such as lab reports, medication administration records, nurses' notes and physicians' orders, could very well be meaningless for your case.  There's no need spending money on medical records that you don't need.

When you request medical records from a doctor or hospital, you should make your request specific for certain documents.  You will save yourself a lot of money and if it turns out you need the rest of the medical chart, you can always get it.

One little warning: it is common that hospitals will send you a complete set of medical records, even when you limit your request to only a few, select records, i.e., your request is limited to the operative report and discharge summary.  You must make sure you notify the medical records department of the hospital that you only asked for certain records and you should refuse to pay for the entire medical chart. 

What you can do if you have questions

If you want more information, I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can send me an e-mail at jfisher@fishermalpracticelaw.com .  You are always welcome to request a FREE copy of my book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.