Do you know when to use a subpoena versus a medical release or public record? Once again, our blog will discuss yet another topic where education is not readily available. Today we will quickly go over the major differences in obtaining records through subpoenas, medical releases, and public records.
- Subpoena: In workers’ compensation a subpoena cannot be issued without an official case number (known as an “ADJ” number), meaning that the claim must be on file at the WCAB. All parties are to be advised when a subpoena is issued to allow a party the opportunity to request a copy of the records being produced. Notification also gives an adverse party the opportunity to object to the subpoena by filing a motion to quash at the WCAB, where a judge will determine the fate of the subpoena.
- Medical Release: When the employer has a medical release signed by an injured worker, the employer may obtain records without advising the injured worker or their attorney. Also, the opposing party is not entitled to a copy of the records. The Release is forwarded to a copy service to be presented to the custodian of the medical provider from whom the records are sought. Obtaining records via a Release is a far more streamlined process for an employer!
- Public Record: Neither a Release nor a subpoena is required to obtain a public record, specifically a record which is available to everyone without the consent of the applicant or without the need to provide the applicant with prior notice of such request (other than when DMV records are sought – as to those the DMV will determine if the request is valid and if they do, they will then advise the licensee per the “Rebecca Schaefer” law). Typical public records include, but are not limited to, birth/death certificates, marriage licenses, professional licenses, divorce records, bankruptcy, and civil suits.
As a procedural tip be certain that the copy service is aware when you are using a medical release or seeking public records in lieu of a subpoena. When using a medical release or seeking public records do not provide the WCAB case number to the copy service company, nor should you identify the opposing attorney as you are not required to provide such notice nor give AA the opportunity to obtain copies of what has been produced to you.
And as a final piece of advice, once the sought-after records are obtained, review them! We have seen many packets of records contained in case files, with unbroken seals! But as one claims administrator sheepishly commented, “At least we documented our file . . .”