As personal injury attorneys in Charleston, South Carolina, we order medical records and medical bills in just about every automobile accident or injury case we have. In this article, we explain the laws on medical records in South Carolina including how to get your medical records, how much to expect your medical records to cost, how long it takes to get your medical records, whether a doctor has to give you your medical records, which medical records you are entitled to, and more.

Does a Doctor Have to Give Me My Medical Records in South Carolina?

Yes. Federal law says so under HIPAA (short for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). You also are entitled to them under South Carolina law, specifically Section 44-115-10 through 44-115-160 of our Code of Laws (called the Physicians’ Patient Records Act). A more technical answer is that under South Carolina law, the physician/doctor owns the records, but the patient is entitled to copies.

How Do I Get My Medical Records in South Carolina?

The easiest way is to just call the billing office for your doctor or hospital and ask what their preferred procedure is. Some may accept an email request. Some may request you fax or mail in the request.  An alternative is that you can always just go down to the office and order them, but they may not be able to produce them right there on the spot.

Know that they will ask you to sign a written authorization to obtain the records. Read the authorization carefully. They may try to put extra language in there that could create a lien against your personal injury case if you have one. Our personal injury lawyers never grant liens voluntarily, although in certain instances we have to. If the authorization has anything in it that does anything more than giving the authority to copy and produce the records, you probably want to have a lawyer review it and perhaps even use a different authorization altogether.

How Long Does It Take to Get My Medical Records in South Carolina?

The law does not give a deadline for medical record requests.  Ordinarily, our office receives the records back within a few weeks of our request.  Medical and billing requests to Hospitals tend to take a little longer than smaller clinics. Occasionally, we have to follow up multiple times with the medical provider, and in rare instances, we have to threaten civil action.  We have never been unable to ultimately secure the records, as the law is on your and our side.

Why Do Medical Records Cost So Much in South Carolina?

South Carolina law gives the maximums that doctors may charge for searching for and copying the records. In our lawyers’ experience, they almost always charge the maximum. These maximum copy costs are:

  • A flat $25.00 administrative fee for searching and handling plus the duplication costs.
  • If you are getting electronic copies, the medical provider may charge up to $0.65 per page for the first 30 pages and $0.50 for each additional page, and the total cost can’t be more than $150.00 per request.
  • If you are getting paper copies, the medical provider may charge up to $0.65 per page for the first 30 pages and $0.50 for each additional page, and the total cost can’t be more than $150.00 per request.
  • Postage and applicable sales tax.

These amounts may be adjusted annually according to increases in the Consumer Price Index and calculated by DHEC. The doctor is allowed to ask for payment up front.

There is no cost if the records are given to a doctor from a referring doctor for the continuance of medical treatment. The doctor may charge the actual cost of copying of an X-ray, which includes materials, supplies, labor, and overhead.

What Medical Records Am I Entitled to in South Carolina?

Pretty much any record associated with your treatment, including the bills. However, they can choose to only release a summary or portion of the record instead of the whole record if the doctor reasonably believes that release of the information contained in the entire record could harm the patient’s emotional or physical well-being, the emotional or physical well-being of another person who has given information about the patient to the physician, or where release of the information is otherwise prohibited by law. Even in this situation, they still have to give the entire record to your lawyer or to an insurance company in certain situations. An unreasonable refusal to release the entire medical record could cause a sanction against the doctor by the Board of Medical Examiners.

Can I limit what medical records are produced to my attorney?

In rare instances, a client may wish to limit the records available to his or her attorney.  Cases like these include but are not limited to; HIV/AIDS, Mental Health/psychiatric disorders, Drug and Alcohol Abuse, and Sexually Transmitted Diseases.  Medical Treating facilities will require specific authorization by you for these areas of treatment.  Speak to your attorney before limiting requested medical information as it may be important to your case. 

Can I Still Get My Records If I Haven’t Paid My Bill in Full?

Yes. South Carolina law explicitly says so.  If you are having difficulty getting your records please contact the Gruenloh Law Firm and we will be more than happy to assist you.

How Long Must a Doctor Hold My Medical Records in South Carolina?

Ten (10) years for adults and thirteen (13) years for minors. The time starts after the last date of treatment. After periods expire, the doctor can destroy the records.

Are My Medical Records Private?

Absolutely! The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires medical professionals to implement systems and safeguards in their offices to ensure that patient information isn’t released to someone other than the patient or someone who the patient has authorized to receive the records. Doctor’s can’t sell your records either, except in limited situations. It is not just records; doctors and their staff can’t talk about your case with anyone either.

We have actually sued doctors and pharmacists for negligently releasing or revealing patient information. However, doctors have civil immunity if they in good faith release records to someone pursuant to a written authorization. In other words, if someone forges your name to an authorization, the doctor might be off the hook for not catching the forgery.

Do I Need My Records If I’ve Been Injured in an Accident?

Yes. In every personal injury or automobile accident case, we have to prove our damages. We have to get the medical bills so we can get you reimbursed. We also have to get the medical records to help prove the nature of your injury, the treatment you had to get, and your pain and suffering.

If you’ve been injured and it’s someone else’s fault, contact the attorneys at The Gruenloh Law Firm to schedule a free consultation.

“How Long Does It Take to Get My Medical Records in South Carolina?

The law does not give a deadline. ”

Though facilities may not take the full 30 days, HIPAA dictates that a covered entity must provide access to the PHI requested, in whole, or in part, no later than 30 calendar days from receiving the individual’s request. If a covered entity is unable to provide access within 30 calendar days, the covered entity may extend the time by no more than an additional 30 days. To extend the time, the covered entity must, within the initial 30 days, inform the individual in writing of the reasons for the delay and the date by which the covered entity will provide access. Only one extension is permitted per access request See HIPAA 45 CFR 164.524(b)(2).

I have been in accident, do I need to see a doctor?

While this is ultimately your decision, receiving an evaluation from your physician after an accident or injury is recommended.  Most ‘whiplash’ injuries develop over time and within 2-3 days clients will seek medical treatment.  If you find yourself going to the doctor after a motor vehicle accident please contact the Gruenloh Law Firm.