You've been injured at work. Now comes the insult: the insurance company "requests" that you provide a list of medical conditions, prior injuries, and job history (you probably already provided that information on the original job application). Rule # 1) don't sign that Consent to Release information form. Doctors are entitled to know about your medical history during medical exams. Insurance companies want to gain access to your personal information in order to attack your claim for benefits. When the insurance company complains that you are not "cooperating" because you are not signing the release forms or providing a written history of your medical/employment history, rely on Rule # 2) tell them to set your deposition and then hire an attorney. The law allows an employer/insurance company to "discover" information about you. But the flow of information should be filtered and limited by an attorney on your side. The proper procedure to get your personal information is by giving them a deposition. This procedure forces the insurance company's representative (e.g. claim examiner, adjustor, lawyer, investigator) to gain relevant information through a question & answer session under oath. There is no requirement that you sign a consent to release information. This costs the insurance carrier money, but your privacy is worth it!
The Labor Code allows for "reasonable" attorneys fees associated with defending an applicants deposition. "Applicant" is the technical term for an injured employee whom is "applying" for workers' compensation benefits. Therefore it is possible to engage a lawyer for the limited roll of "defending" your deposition. After the deposition process is over, you can go back to handling the claim on your own, and the attorney will get paid for his/her expertise directly by the insurance carrier, pursuant to LC section 5710. A link to the code is:
The above referenced law also forces the carrier to pay the applicants reasonable expenses of transportation, meals, and lodging incident to the deposition; reimbursement for any loss of wages incurred during attendance at the deposition and a free copy of the deposition transcript.
The flow of your personal information should be carefully controlled by an attorney on your side. So in the event that the insurance carrier wants access to your medical or other private information, it is recommended that you have a workers compensation lawyer at least during the "discovery" phase of the case. This will also help identify any issues that may interfere with the smooth processing of your injury claim. The applicant can be assured that they are receiving valuable services from their lawyer, even though the applicant is not paying legal fees, since the attorney fees will be paid by the carrier for the pre-deposition preparation time and during the deposition proceeding.
If you do not want to hire a lawyer, go to the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) web site for a basic guide: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/WCFaqIW.html
We are happy to discuss your case to see if we can help, even if it is only for the limited engagement of defending your deposition.
The Harmon Firm
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