As the costs of providing treatment and benefits to injured workers goes up, the insurance companies and public employers are becoming increasingly litigious in demanding all kinds of necessary information from injured workers. Routinely injured workers face a borage of requests for the names of all of their personal physicians going back as far as 20 years. These requests are made so that the insurance company can rifle through these medical records in hopes of finding something to use against the injured worker. These demands are now routine and represent a clear invasion of an injured worker’s privacy.

At Stark & Stark, we have a policy of refusing to comply with these demands. Every request for personal medical information for an injured worker made to Stark & Stark is refused. As far as we at Stark & Stark are concerned, the only way that an insurance company can obtain prior medical information is to take the matter before the Judge of Compensation. There, we force the insurance company to justify in real factual terms why such prior medical records are necessary or relevant to the work related injury. Otherwise, we don’t let them get them. Even then, to protect a client’s privacy from unnecessary disclosure of unrelated medical issues, we will often times ask the Judge to review the records and remove anything not directly related to the accident or the injuries claimed.

Most judges are sympathetic to our efforts, however, there are workers’ compensation judges who don’t care how much information an insurance company or employer collects. For this reason, we at Stark & Stark have pressed for a change in rules to require the insurance company or employer to justify their request for prior medical records showing why such a request is relevant to the defense of the injured’s claim. We first inquired of this to the Director of Workers’ Compensation last year and partly through our efforts, the Director and Chief Judge of Workers’ Compensation appointed a committee to study these issues. This Committee made up of both attorneys for injured workers as well as representatives of insurance companies, self-insured’s and judges as completed preliminary work designed to limit access to personal medical information. We hope and expect that soon a proposed rule change will be published reflecting our desire that an injured worker’s privacy not be unnecessarily invaded merely for having filed a workers’ compensation claim.

Stark & Stark remains vigilant in our efforts to advocate on behalf of injured working people.

Arthur Kravitz is a Shareholder in Stark & Stark’s Lawrenceville, New Jersey office, specializing in Workers’ Compensation Law. For more information, please contact Mr. Kravitz.