30 May 2013

What Is HIPAA and How Does It Affect My Car Accident? Durham Lawyer | Durham Personal Injury Lawyer

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What Is HIPAA and How Does It Affect My Car Accident? Durham North Carolina Lawyer | North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was a Privacy Rule issued in 1996 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Essentially, the main purpose of the Act is twofold: first, to ensure the protection of individuals’ health information while secondly still permitting access to covered entities for necessary information. The Privacy Rule applies to covered entities such as health plans, health care providers, and any service that processes nonstandard health information. In addition, “business associates” are persons or organizations who work with these covered entities and may come into contact with your individual health information. As your North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer, law firms are some of the most common “business associates”, since we may come into contact with your medical information as we work on your personal injury claim.

The specific information protected under HIPAA is defined as “individually identifiable health information”. This simply means forms of information that could be reasonably used to identify you individually. Some examples of these types of information could include: name, address, birth date, Social Security number, and, more specifically, your past, present, or future health conditions and/or health care payments. Under HIPAA, all of this information is kept private unless you authorize its release in writing via a medical authorization form or unless it is required for certain federal functions of law.

If you have been involved in an accident resulting in personal injury, you may come into contact with insurance adjusters who offer you the option to sign a medical authorization form. You should be extremely weary of signing this form, as it allows the insurance company access to your aforementioned “individually identifiable health information”, which could then be used against you in your personal injury claim. In order to ensure that you aren’t being taken advantage of by insurance adjusters in such a manner, speak to your North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer, Attorney J. Wallace Pierce at Pierce Law Offices.

The Office of Civil Rights is responsible for the enforcement of the Act. If a person or entity violates your HIPAA rights, each violation is a penalty of $100-$50,000. In some circumstances, that penalty may even exceed $50,000. The amount of penalties depends on aspects such as the date the information was released, whether the entity willfully violated the policy, and the corrective action taken by the entity. On the other hand, if an individual knowingly obtains and/or discloses your individually identifiable health information, they will be charged with a criminal penalty, involving hefty fines and imprisonment. In this case, the Department of Justice will handle prosecutions, rather than the Office of Civil Rights.

If you have any concerns about your rights under HIPAA as they apply to your personal injury claim, contact your North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer, J. Wallace Pierce of Pierce Law Offices today to ensure the necessary protection of your health information.