Martin & Jones, PLLC
Call today for a Free consultation.

Workers' Comp: 2011 Reforms — Medical Privacy of Injured Workers Is Stripped Away

Prior to the 2011 amendments, the employer and its insurance company did have access to information about the injured worker's medical treatment. They were entitled to receive copies of the worker's medical records for treatment of the workplace injury. Moreover, they could also hire a nurse case manager to attend an injured worker's appointments and consult the doctor about medical treatment. The nurse would then pass along the information learned from the doctor to the insurance company.

The employer and its insurance company were prohibited, however, from speaking directly to the doctor about the injured worker's treatment without the worker's permission. In the case of Salaam v. N.C. Dep't of Transp., the Court of Appeals held that due to 'patient privacy' and 'the confidential relationship between doctor and patient,' employers were not allowed to communicate with a doctor without the worker's permission.

The new section 97-25.6, entitled 'Reasonable access to medical information,' makes significant changes to the law. I would like to focus on three provisions. First, the employer, or more likely its attorney, is now authorized to write the physician and request additional information. The employer must send the worker a copy of the letter and must provide her the doctor's response within 10 days of receipt.

This is a fairly reasonable change, but it has potential for abuse. First, a less-than-scrupulous employer could make derogatory or prejudicial statements in the letter about the worker aimed to influence the doctor. Second, I suspect most letters will end with a sentence like this: 'If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call me.' This sentence would essentially invite the doctor to make improper contact with the employer.

The second major change is that employers are now allowed to submit 'additional information' to the doctor. Although, thankfully, the employer must first notify the injured worker of the intended communication, this change also had potential for abuse. It's not hard to imagine that the additional information submitted by the employer will almost always be prejudicial to the injured worker. But what if the information is not reliable? For example, what if the employer intends to submit a surveillance tape, but the videotaped subject is not the injured worker? The section does allow the worker ask the Indusrial Commission for a protective order, but it remains to be seen whether that will effectively protect workers from an employer's scurrilous communications.

The third change is the most signficant. The employer, or again its attorney, is now allowed to pick up of the phone and discuss the injured worker's medical treatment with her doctor without the worker's consent. Again, the injured worker must be notified ahead of time and given an opportunity to participate in the phone conversation. One wonders, however, whether an unrepresented worker will know that she should participate in the call. Moreover, allowing the employer to call the doctor simply does not seem consistent with the notion of doctor-patient confidentiality. Finally, this procedure is also ripe for abuse. An unscrupulous employer may use the call as opportunity to influence the doctor by communicating unreliable prejudicial information about the worker.

Obviously, in a workers' compensation claim, the employer needs access to an injured worker's relevant medical information. Otherwise, the insurance company cannot effectively manage the claim. However, the changes made by the 2011 reforms strip away the medical privacy rights of injured workers and leave them more vulnerable to the attacks of unscrupulous employerrs.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Martin & Jones Reviews

  • "I just wanted you to know how much my family and I appreciate the work that you (Mike Riley) and everyone at Martin & Jones have done for us over the years. The initial settlements helped Mom and Dad live comfortably during his illness and afforded him the care that he needed. Since his passing nine years ago, your continued efforts on our behalf have been nothing short of a blessing. Mom, who will be 92 in September, has many medical issues but is still very sharp mentally, and enjoys being able to live at home. I just want you and everyone at Martin & Jones to know how grateful we are."

    Fred G., whose father had mesothelioma
  • "Thank you for everything that you have done for us. We are fortunate to know you. We appreciate all of the hard work, long hours and care that was shown to us before and during the trial. Without your help and representing us, we would not be as blessed as we are now. All of you are very special to us. We know that you have the best and attorneys and staff there is."

    Hazel P.
  • "Thank you for your concern of my well-being every time I spoke with you. It always meant so much. I hear nothing but awful stories of dealing with attorneys and their offices, but I have had nothing but positive experience. You have many special ways of working with people in need of help. Words can never express the way your support has been so helpful. I pray you will continue to help others. I wish you all the best."

    Mary C
  • "Forest, once again, my family and I thank you for obtaining another settlement on behalf of my Father. It's almost uncanny that these checks seem to come at very opportune times. This one comes as we are expecting our fourth grandchild. It will provide her some sound footing towards her future college education, plus help Mom and Dad with the medical expenses. Sometimes, I think my Dad is helping you guys with this. Maybe so. Anyway, thank you again for your hard work."

    Mike G.
  • "I appreciate all you're doing and trying to do for me. I don't think I've ever talked to a nicer attorney than Mike, and his assistant (certified paralegal Marjorie Kartanson). You're real nice people. It really makes you feel better, even with all the problems I have."

    Larry A.
  • "Thank you for the work you have done for Carl and our family. We so much appreciate your sincere professionalism and kindness you showed us. I know Carl is smiling right now and the Lord has blessed us through you. May God bless you."

    Connie M. whose husband Carl worked as a brakeman for CSX Transportation and died of mesothelioma
  • "Thank you for always making me feel welcome and at ease in your office. I respect the work you do and your enthusiasm for it and am grateful for your talents."

    Tracy M.
  • "I would like to leave a testimonial thanking Steven and Allison for their care and understanding. Steven's pursuit and success in getting some compensation for our loss. A final closure of our loss of brother Mike. Thanks to Martin & Jones for looking after Mike's care since his injury in 2005. You have been there for Mike and his family for a long time. Mike passed in 2016 and you stood for the family up to the present (July 2017). Many thanks."

    Dan I.
  • "We would like to express our gratitude to you (Hunt Willis) for accepting our case. First of all, when I called this law firm, a very sweet and kind lady answered the telephone and gave me assurance by asking and going over the accident with me, while my husband was in the hospital. I felt assured I was doing the right thing for us. She was so helpful in so many ways. What a professional lady. Secondly, we are much pleased that you have settled this case with the insurance company to receive the proper amount to assist us in so many ways. My husband and I are very happy with you and the firm in handling our case. You made us have confidence in your professional and integrity along with your assistant Ms. Routh, when you both came to see us in our home, in which we saw your compassion and thoughtfulness at that time. We will never forget what you have done for us, and we thank the lord for directing me to contact this firm. I’m glad I did."


"Thank you for your concern of my well-being every time I spoke with you. It always meant so much. I hear nothing but awful stories of dealing with attorneys and their offices, but I have had nothing but positive experience. You have many special ways of working with people in need of help. Words can never express the way your support has been so helpful. I pray you will continue to help others. I wish you all the best."

Mary C
View More Reviews
Contact US Get Help Now

Send us an email or call us today at 800-662-1234 to speak with an attorney about your claim or to arrange a free consultation. It costs nothing to call and there is no obligation. In fact, we are not paid until your case is resolved. Se habla español. If you are unable to travel to one of our offices in Raleigh, Durham and Wilmington, we will meet with you at your location.

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

Raleigh Office
410 Glenwood Avenue
Suite 200
Raleigh, NC 27603

Toll Free: 800-662-1234
Phone: 919-821-0005
Raleigh Law Office Map

Wilmington Office
1213 Culbreth Drive
Suite 121
Wilmington, NC 28405

Toll Free: 800-662-1234
Phone: 910-256-4005
Wilmington Law Office Map

Durham Office
302 East Pettigrew Street
Suite 330
Durham, NC 27701

Toll Free: 800-662-1234
Phone: 919-544-3000
Durham Law Office Map