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Access to Medical Records in the New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation

By on February 23, 2015 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments

A number of clients have inquired recently whether claimants in workers’ compensation cases have a right to request their treating medical records from the insurance carrier, third party administrator, or the authorized treating physician.  The answer to this question comes from both the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act and from the rules of the New Jersey Medical Society.

N.J.S.A. 34:15-128.4 provides that it is unlawful for an employer, the carrier or the treating physician, or a third party in the case or their agents “to withhold from the individual any medical information they have regarding that individual which is requested by the individual, and if an individual requests the medical information, the individual shall not be charged fees in excess of the cost of providing copies of the information.”  In other words, a claimant has a right to medical information from any party to a workers’ compensation case.  That includes the treating medical provider.

Authorized workers’ compensation physicians owe the same obligation to a treating claimant as they would to a private patient.  The mere fact that the employer has designated the treating doctor and pays for the care in no way changes the doctor-patient relationship in a workers’ compensation case.

The rules of the New Jersey Medical Society are similar.  Under N.J.A.C. 13:35-6.5, the treating medical provider must provide patient records no later than 30 days from the receipt of a request from the patient or an authorized representative.  The records must include objective data such as test results and x-ray results.  The rules go on to say that when a patient has requested the release of medical records to a specified individual or entity, the physician shall secure a written medical authorization to protect the privacy interests of the patient.

The Board of Medical Examiners also provides that the cost of reproducing such records shall not be greater than $1.00 per page or $100 for the entire records, whichever is less.  If the records are less than 10 pages, the medical provider may charge $10 to cover postage and associated costs related to the retrieval of such records.  Medical providers shall not charge for a copy of the patient’s records when the physician has effectively terminated a patient from practice in accordance with the requirements of N.J.A.C. 13:35-6.22.

It is important to understand the difference between a treating physician and a independent medical examiner.  Because there is no physician-patient relationship in a situation involving an independent medical examination, a physician who is performing an IME does not have to provide a copy of such a report to the examinee.  That report is sent to the party which requested it, usually the carrier, third party administrator or counsel.

The rule regarding disclosure of treating medical records between counsel is contained in N.J.A.C. 12:235-3.8 (c), which states that either party must furnish medical information to the other within 30 days of the receipt of a demand for such records.  Usually the employer or its carrier/third party administrator has the treating records, and in that case those records must be made available to petitioner’s counsel or petitioner on request.  If the petitioner has obtained treatment on his or her own, then the same obligation rests on petitioner to provide such records to the employer on request.  If a party is not responding timely to a request for medical information in a litigated case, the appropriate step is to file a motion in the Division of Workers’ Compensation.

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John H. Geaney

About the Author

About the Author:

John H. Geaney, an executive committee member and shareholder with Capehart Scatchard, began an email newsletter entitled Currents in Workers’ Compensation, ADA and FMLA in 2001 in order to keep clients and readers informed on leading developments in these three areas of law. Since that time he has written over 500 newsletter updates.

Mr. Geaney is the author of Geaney’s New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Manual for Practitioners, Adjusters & Employers. The manual is distributed by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (NJICLE). He also authored an ADA and FMLA manual as distributed by NJICLE. If you are interested in purchasing the manual, please contact NJICLE at 732-214-8500 or visit their website at www.njicle.com.

Mr. Geaney represents employers in the defense of workers’ compensation, ADA and FMLA matters. He is a Fellow of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of the American Bar Association and is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a workers’ compensation law attorney. He is one of two firm representatives to the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. He has served on the Executive Committee of Capehart Scatchard for over ten (10) years.

A graduate of Holy Cross College summa cum laude, Mr. Geaney obtained his law degree from Boston College Law School. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by his peers and Law and Politics. He serves as Vice President of the Friends of MEND, the fundraising arm of a local charitable organization devoted to promoting affordable housing.

Capehart Scatchard is a full service law firm with offices in Mt. Laurel and Trenton, New Jersey. The firm represents employers and businesses in a wide variety of areas, including workers’ compensation, civil litigation, labor, environmental, business, estates and governmental affairs.

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