Massachusetts Federal Judge Rules Defense Not Entitled To Plaintiff’s Mental Health Records in Car Accident Case

girl-690327_960_720In a recent car accident case, a Massachusetts federal judge held that the defendant was not entitled to obtain copies of the plaintiff’s mental health records. In Conklin v. Feitelberg, a woman suffered severe injuries as the result of a car crash that occurred in June 2011 involving the defendant. In her complaint, the plaintiff brought claims for negligence, seeking compensation for medical bills, lost wages, emotional distress, permanent injuries, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.

During discovery, the defense informed the plaintiff that it intended to seek copies of medical records from the five physicians from whom the plaintiff had sought mental health treatment. The subpoena that the defendant prepared requested records for the period of one year before the accident through to the present day. In response, the plaintiff filed a motion seeking a protective order under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c), claiming that the mental health records were privileged. The defendant also filed a motion to compel production of the mental health records.

The court granted the plaintiff’s motion for a protective order without prejudice, indicating that the defendant would be welcome to renew its motion to compel production of the medical records in the event the plaintiff chose to call any of the five mental health physicians to testify, or if the woman relied on any privileged communications between her and the mental health care providers to prove her claims.

In reaching this conclusion, the court used a “balancing of interests” test. For the defendant to obtain the mental health records, it needed to demonstrate that the interests of justice required the production of the communications between the mental health care professionals and the plaintiff. The court concluded that the defendant failed to meet this burden, leading it to rule in the plaintiff’s favor.

Many accident victims suffer harm to more than just their physical well-being, and some even fail to realize the extent of the mental and emotional harm that they’ve incurred. A debilitating car accident can leave the victim bedridden, incapable of returning to work, or with devastating lifelong injuries that will never heal. Serious and catastrophic injuries involving loss of limb or cognitive injuries can be particularly taxing on the victim and his or her family.

Under Massachusetts law, a plaintiff can recover compensation for emotional harm, pain and suffering, and loss of the enjoyment of life. If you have been involved in an accident and think you may be suffering from non-physical harm, it is important that you speak with a mental health professional as soon as possible to assess the nature and scope of your potential injuries.

At the Law Offices of John S. Moffa, we have represented many Massachusetts car accident victims and helped them seek the settlement or the judgment that they and their families deserve. We offer a free consultation to help you learn about the rights and remedies available to you. Call us now at 508-362-5554 or contact us online to set up your consultation now.

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