In a previous post I identified and discussed the different types of medical records that are commonly needed to defend a false claim of abuse. But how does one go about getting all of the records?
Gathering the records can be a difficult and sometimes frustrating task. Each hospital or provider has their own policies and procedures, and they are sometimes reluctant to provide the records to non-attorneys. I therefore recommend that you seek the assistance of an experienced child abuse defense attorney in order to make sure that all of the pertinent records are obtained.
Some records can be easily obtained. It is a matter of completing a request, signing a release, and paying a fee. Parents have the right to sign the release for their children's medical records. The fee is usually dependent upon the number of pages or films, and can sometimes be costly. (However, fees are frequently waived if the records are provided pursuant to a subpoena or court order.) Other records require a court order to obtain. For example, a court order will be required where the parents have had temporary custody taken from them by the child protective services or the courts. The assistance of an attorney will be required in these circumstances.
Sometimes locating the records can be half of the battle (See Second Tip below), as some hospitals records are held in different departments. You may need to make several calls or several attempts to get the records you really need. You may also encounter HIPPA objections from some hospitals or providers. Most of these objections can be overcome with a work and persistence.
Suggestions and Tips
First Tip: Whenever possible the records should be obtained in digital form. This will allow for easier exchange of the records between medical experts, attorneys, and other members of your defense team. If only paper records are available, paper is better than none, and can be converted to digital via scanning. Most films (X-rays, CT, MRI) will be in digital form. In the event the films are not in digital form, the actual X-ray will not be delivered if it is the only copy. Rather, access to the records will need to be handled on a case by case basis and will require the assistance of an attorney.
Second Tip: It is important to remember that sometimes the records you need are not part of the "standard" medical record. Some hospitals keep radiology films, child abuse assessment team records and some pathology records or reports separate from the standard medical file. A separate request and fee will need to be paid to each department where the records are kept. I am familiar with the record storage policies of many hospitals and am willing to help when necessary.
Third Tip: If you are ever in doubt as to whether or not you received all of the medical records from a hospital, there is a simple way to find out - get a copy of the bill. Hospitals are businesses and they bill for everything they do, down to the last strip of gauze. A comparison of the bill to the records obtained will often show if anything is missing.