What information is my physician allowed to divulge if I bring forth a personal injury claim in Washington?

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.

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