Generally, not without the worker’s consent. The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) work in concert to protect railway workers who suffer injuries while on the job. One of your rights under FELA and HIPAA is that your employer cannot speak with your doctor without your consent nor gain access to your medical records. Let’s take a further look.
Overview of FELA
FELA was enacted in 1908 and provides a legal framework for injured railway workers to seek compensation for work-related injuries. Unlike traditional workers’ compensation systems, FELA requires the injured worker to prove that the employer’s negligence played a role in the injury. This means that railway companies can be held liable for unsafe working conditions, inadequate training, or other factors contributing to accidents.
Under FELA, injured workers are entitled to receive compensation for such things as:
- Lost wages and lost fringe benefits,
- Reduced ability to earn a living,
- Medical bills,
- Physical pain and suffering,
- Lost enjoyment of life, and
- Retraining costs.
Confidentiality of Medical Information
HIPAA safeguards the confidentiality of patients’ medical information. However, FELA creates a unique situation where the injured worker’s medical condition becomes central to the legal proceedings. Railway companies may argue that accessing medical records is necessary to defend against the claims of negligence.
In most cases, however, communications between a railway and the treating physician requires the injured worker’s consent. HIPAA regulations strictly prohibit the release of medical information without patient authorization. This means that if a railway company wishes to communicate with an injured worker’s doctor, they must obtain written consent from the injured employee. This consent should clearly specify the information to be disclosed and the purpose of the communication. In some cases, a court order may be required if the injured worker refuses to grant consent.
Legal Implications and HIPAA Violations
Failure to obtain consent or violating HIPAA regulations can have serious legal consequences for the railway company. HIPAA violations can result in fines, legal action, and damage to the company’s reputation. It is essential for railway companies to navigate the legal landscape carefully and respect the privacy rights of the injured worker.
Contact Rossi Vucinovich for Help
If you sustained a railroad injury, please contact our law firm for help. Rossi Vucinovich PC has been helping railroad employees and people injured in railroad accidents recover from railroad injuries for over 50 years. We are dedicated to helping you obtain the benefits you need to treat your injuries, pay your bills, and continue supporting your families. Do yourself a favor and contact us today to get the legal help you deserve.