Throughout the handling of a claim or lawsuit, clients will be asked to provide different kinds of authorizations. The attorney must carefully review the language of any authorization, as well as its propriety. Here are the common types of authorizations:
Authorization to disclose medical records
The victim’s lawyer usually submits this type of form to his own client. There are at least two versions of this form.
- Kaiser’s form. Kaiser Permanente drafted its own form. It is mandatory for clients treated by Kaiser. If the client went to or will go to Kaiser for his treatment, this form must be used.
- HIPPA form. The other is a form that complies with the Heath Information Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPPA”). These forms are fairly standard but different companies, health care providers and attorneys have their own wording.
Bodily injury clients or their parents have to execute these authorizations provided they are worded properly.
Authorization to execute the settlement agreement or other document of waiver or release
It is a common practice for the victim’s attorney to request and obtain authorization to sign the settlement agreement or other document of waiver or release. Such authorizations can be worded simply and should be in writing and signed by the client. An email message from the client will suffice if the attorney has communicated previously with the client in that manner and can establish the evidentiary foundation for the client’s email message.
However, an attorney should never sign the client’s name on a discovery document in a lawsuit. Such documents are signed under penalty of perjury and constitute testimony. It is unethical for an attorney to sign them, and the discovery of this breach can result in serious consequences to the lawyer.
Authorization to endorse check
It is common for the victim’s attorney to request and receive authority to endorse the client’s settlement checks. Such authorization must be in writing and signed by the client. An email message from the client will suffice if the attorney has communicated previously with the client in that manner and can establish the evidentiary foundation for the client’s email message.
It has to be clear, however, that the attorney will immediately (a) deposit the check into a clients’ trust account, and (b) send the client his share of the settlement along with the appropriate accounting.
Authorizations of any type which are submitted by the opposing party’s insurance company or attorney
No matter how attorneys normally do things in your area, no client should ever give the opponent the authorization to get anything on his own. Clients have a right of privacy under all kinds of laws, and their lawyer’s job is to protect them. Insurance companies and defense lawyers always ask for too much, more than the law entitles them to see.
While it matters less when the plaintiff is a child, it matters a whole lot when the defense finds out about an abortion, sexually transmitted disease, or that a child’s parents have a certain disease or have a drug or drinking problem. These revelations can destroy a case, weaken a client’s resolve to pursue it, and harm the client’s trust in his lawyer.
Therefore, if the insurance company or the defense wants to see something, they need to make a formal or informal request for the specific item, and the victim’s lawyer should obtain it, review it, and turn it over if necessary.