So you’ve been meaning to get on top of the medical records for your personal injury or medical malpractice cases for a while now.

You see other lawyers do it. They seem to have all the medical facts at their fingertips– they make it look seamless.

But for some reason, drudging through those medical records is overwhelming. Every night you bring the client file home with the intention of reviewing it, something happens and you find yourself bringing the file back to work the next day, untouched.

Not this time.

Because this time you’re going to be armed with the same tips, tricks, and secrets that the insiders know. So give these tips a try and see if they work for you too…

Be sure to request both copies of medical bills from the hospital and insurance claims from the medical insurance company to ensure that you have the medical records in entirety.

Tip 1: Be sure to request both copies of medical bills from the hospital and insurance claims from the medical insurance company to ensure that you have the medical records in entirety.

PRO TIP: Clients will often forget when and where they were treated so be sure to cross-check records from the insurer so that you are not missing visits from urgent care centers, emergency rooms, or specialists’ offices that the clients are not recalling. 

Tip 2: Avoid filing the medical records away, just to deal with them “another day.” By summarizing the records early on, you can more easily screen the case for merit and improve your position in negotiations, as well as see what other records you might need.

Tip 3: Never try to summarize the medical records alone. There are many healthcare medical-legal services that can easily and affordably summarize the records for you. 

WARNING: Attorneys are not physicians and unless you have specific medical training, you are going to spend extra time trying to understand the records and you will still miss important facts.  For example, an appointment with the gynecologist may not be obviously connected to the car accident, but a seasoned physician might see evidence of damages. Consider hiring a physician to analyze your case’s strengths and weaknesses– an experienced diagnostic clinician will use his/her clinical eye to provide valuable insights into your case. 

Tip 4: Don’t assume that because the client has damages that include deficits in their neurologic exam (such as weakness or numbness) that the correct medical expert for the case is a neurologist. 9 times out of 10, the most qualified medical expert for the case is not the neurologist who the attorney originally seeks.

Tip 5: Once you have chosen (THE CORRECT- see tip 4) testifying medical expert, be sure that they understand what you would like written in the report. Many medical experts are unaware of the legal rules of discoverability and the nuances of legal strategy. 

PRO TIP: Consider hiring an experienced internal medicine/primary care physician as a non-testifying expert who can guide you throughout the life cycle of your case. This non-testifying expert’s reports are generally not discoverable at trial as opposed to the testifying expert. This MD can perform a medical record review/analysis for strengths and weaknesses, help find the right testifying expert and serve as a liaison/mentor to the testifying medical expert for best-practices.

In sum: Getting on top of your medical records is actually fairly simple when you apply the above five tips. So let me leave you with one last tip…

Be proactive, not reactive. 

So get to it – you’re going to be glad you did!

Amy G. Fogelman, MD is Founder & CEO of MED LAW Consulting, LLC, Boston’s Premier Medical Legal Consulting Firm. She has 15 years of clinical experience as a primary care physician. A career-long educator, and Instructor at Harvard Medical School from 2006-2018, Amy currently serves as an elected member of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Committee on Ethics, Grievances and Professional Standards.