Washington recognizes the physician-patient privilege, which protects information obtained by a physician necessary for treating the patient. However, in a personal injury or wrongful death matter this privilege is automatically waived after 90 days of filing an action. Waiver of such a privilege to one physician constitutes a waiver to all physicians. In Washington the waiver is limited only to medical information obtained regarding the litigation matter, but does consist of both medical facts and physician opinion. Although the privilege is automatically waived after 90 days of filing an action, a defense attorney may not have ex-parte communications with petitioner’s physician. Ex Parte communications are communications with a represented party outside the presence of their attorney, which as stated is not permitted. Defense counsel must resort to discovery in order to obtain information from a patient's physician.
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and Washington’s state law HCIADA (Health Care Information Access and Disclosure Act) are separate from the physician-patient privilege and any waiver thereof.
Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills, and other complications. Before taking legal action or trying to negotiate a settlement on your own, you should talk to an attorney about your case. You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local personal injury attorney to discuss the merits of your case. This one step can level the playing field, help you protect your rights, and put you in the best position for recovering the compensation that you deserve.