Of course, it is always difficult to deal with the loss of a loved one. Sadly, it is a fact of life that people die from events such as motor vehicle accidents and incidents of medical malpractice. Depending on the circumstances, there are certain actions that must be completed for survivors to achieve the finality necessary in this unfortunate situation. A common example of which is the need for the deceased’s medical records.
When dealing with personal injury cases that result in a fatality, and, therefore, may include a claim or count based on our state’s wrongful death statute, attorneys must obtain the deceased’s medical records. When dealing with medical malpractice cases where the patient has died, attorneys must obtain the Decedent’s medical records.
State law requires a physician to attest to the viability of a medical malpractice case prior to filing a lawsuit. This attestation is accomplished through a “certificate of merit” in Pennsylvania.
Thus, before the case moves forward in a court of law, the survivors’ attorneys (in a case where death occurs) must examine the deceased patient’s medical records and determine if a viable cause of action exists. Not only must the attorneys examine these records, so must the physician who will potentially attest in the certificate of merit to the allegation of malpractice.
Pennsylvania, in 28 Pa. Code § 115.29, requires hospitals, upon the death of a patient, to provide, upon request, access to a decedent’s medical records. Based on our 113 years of collective experience, family members may obtain these records more expediently than their attorneys. The plain meaning of the language in the statute indicates that only executors or next of kin may make a request for access to medical records.
Reviewing medical records to determine if a legal cause of action exists is a painstakingly long, arduous process. Thus, it is imperative that medical records are obtained as soon as possible when there is any possibility that a legal claim for damages exists. Regardless of what the hospital may demand in this situation, they are required by law to provide access to a family member’s medical records.
For 113 years, Powell Law has represented victims in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and surrounding areas. Consult an experienced Pennsylvania attorney. Contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE!