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Medical Malpractice

Can You File a Medical Malpractice Claim for a HIPAA Violation?

June 14, 2024

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed by Congress in 1996 in order to create standardized protections for patients’ sensitive health information. The law focuses primarily on guarding against the intentional or inadvertent disclosure of patient’s “individually identifiable health information” without their knowledge or consent. Healthcare providers are required by this law to go to considerable lengths to protect this information and can face significant fines when these breaches occur. As medical malpractice attorneys, we are often asked whether a patient has a medical malpractice claim when their HIPAA rights have been violated.

The Difference Between HIPAA and Medical Malpractice

As noted above, HIPAA deals with protecting a patient’s personal health information. When a healthcare provider discloses this information without the patient’s knowledge or consent, they have violated federal law and may be fined. Common examples of potential HIPAA violations include the following: 

  • Disclosure of sensitive information over social media
  • Access to sensitive information by non-HIPAA compliant entities
  • Improper disposal of sensitive information
  • Disclosure of incorrect patient information
  • Failure to protect against theft or fraud
  • Disclosure of information to other providers without proper authorization
  • Mishandling of patient records

Medical malpractice focuses on when a healthcare provider fails to meet the standard of care and thereby causes physical harm to the patient. Some of the most common types of medical malpractice claims arise from the following:

To summarize, HIPAA deals with the improper handling of patient information, whereas medical malpractice deals with harm suffered by the patient when the healthcare provider fails to meet the standard of care. As a result, HIPAA violations do not typically give rise to medical malpractice claims. 

When HIPAA Violations Lead to Medical Malpractice Claims

There is a growing trend of recognizing that a healthcare provider’s HIPAA obligations may fall under the standard of care. These cases are still somewhat unusual, however. In addition, patients should recognize that their medical malpractice claim would not involve allegations of physical harm. Instead, the patient would have to prove that they were harmed as a result of the negligent (or intentional) mishandling of their information. 

The intersection of HIPAA and medical malpractice is complex and the law is evolving. As a result, the best thing to do is contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney if you have questions about whether your rights were violated or whether you received substandard care. They can assess your case, explain your options, and help you find the way forward. 

What Are Your Rights if Your Provider Committed a HIPAA Violation?

Unfortunately, patients do not have the right to sue their healthcare providers under HIPAA. However, they can file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights or your state’s attorney general. A complaint can lead to an investigation and result in fines against the provider and an award of compensation to the patient. That said, you may have rights under either Montana or Wyoming state law for mishandling of your personal information. 

What Are Your Remedies in a Medical Malpractice Claim?

If you have suffered harm as a result of medical malpractice, you have the right to file a lawsuit against your healthcare provider for monetary compensation. Montana residents should be aware, however, that you must first file your claim with the Montana Medical Legal Panel before you can file a lawsuit. The role of the Medical Legal Panel is to determine whether medical malpractice likely occurred in an attempt to weed out any meritless claims. However, the panel’s determinations are non-binding and inadmissible in court. There is no similar requirement for medical malpractice claims in Wyoming.

In your lawsuit, you can seek compensation for the following: 

  • Your medical expenses incurred as a result of the malpractice
  • Your lost income
  • Your pain and suffering

In addition, you may be entitled to punitive damages in cases where your provider engaged in egregiously negligent behavior. If you believe you are the victim of medical malpractice, a medical malpractice attorney can provide an estimate of what your claim may be worth. 

Contact Ragain & Clark Today For Immediate Assistance

The medical malpractice attorneys at Ragain & Clark have been helping medical malpractice victims get fair compensation for over 30 years. Whether it is a HIPAA violation or a malpractice claim, we can explain your options and help you find a way forward. Contact us today by calling 406-651-8888 (Billings) or 307-388-6400 (Worland) to schedule a free consultation.


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