Mental Health Record Privacy After A Car Crash

Video Transcript

Disclosing therapy and counseling records after a car crash

Let’s talk about mental health and privacy after a car crash. After you’ve been in an auto accident, you may suffer both physically, mentally, and emotionally. It seems pretty straight forward how you estimate the value of a physical injury. You hand over an x-ray and the medical bills. But how you prove you have mental and emotional injuries? Do you need to turn over your entire life’s counseling and therapy records?

The short answer is maybe, depending on your situation, let’s discuss some key points.

What records do I need to disclose after a car crash?

As a general rule, if you’ve been in a car crash and make a claim, you will have to turn over your medical records to the insurance company. For instance, if you broke your leg in the crash, the insurance company’s going to want to see your ER records, x-rays, and probably your orthopedic records. Insurance companies need this information to know your injuries and recovery path.

Quickly handing over x-rays for a physical injury makes sense to most people, but a personal injury claim is about much more than a bodily injury. Usually, its the mental and emotional harm that’s most important to you, and for us as lawyers, that’s how we add value to your claim.

What kinds of emotional harm qualifies as pain and suffering?

Emotional harm is often what people call “pain and suffering.” To claim pain and suffering, you must show how your life was impacted because of the injury

Some of the harm you could claim under pain and suffering include:

  • The emotional impact caused by the loss of function of a limb
  • Inconveniences of having a life now full of doctors’ appointments
  • Side-effects of medication
  • Post-traumatic stress syndrome

Lawyers realize that not everybody wants to be open books. That is especially true when it comes to their therapy records and their mental health history. So the question becomes, how do you bring a successful personal injury claim, but still maintain some amount of privacy when it comes to your mental health?

Can I claim for pain and suffering without turning over my mental health records?

If you are claiming what courts call a “garden variety” emotional distress, you don’t have to turn over your therapy records and mental health history.

What’s “garden variety” emotional harm?

Well, let’s say you have some sleepless nights. Maybe you have some anxiety about going to medical appointments or getting a little jumpy every time you drive through the intersection where the crash happened. Still, eventually, you go back to what’s a normal baseline for you. In that case, you probably won’t have to turn over your mental health records to the defense.

When do I have to turn over my mental health records after a car crash?

If your auto collision was traumatic enough, you might have to turn over a large portion of your therapy and mental health records to the defense. Examples of symptoms of traumatic events include you experienced an uptick in symptoms of your anxiety disorder, or a diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or if your symptoms are indistinguishable from your existing mental health conditions.

Are there any benefits to handing over my mental health records to the defense attorneys?

If the crash and the resulting mental and emotional distress is severe enough, you may need money for your injuries. You should be aware that there may be some trade-offs. Especially if you have mental health records that you’re concerned about disclosing. If your symptoms are very severe and have not improved, then you should talk to your lawyer. Discuss with them about how much of your records need to be disclosed to prove your case.

However, if you only experienced some suffering and some trauma, but eventually you returned to your usual self, there may not be a trade-off.


Every auto collision case is different, and so is each set of injuries. If you were injured in a serious crash, you might need to disclose your counseling and mental health records. However, if you are claiming ‘garden variety’ distress, you are less likely to need to disclose your files.

Already been injured in a car accident? Contact Drew Palcsik at Champlain Valley Law.

If you were hurt in a car crash despite obeying all traffic laws, you might have grounds for a personal injury claim. Attorney Drew Palcsik can evaluate your case and help you understand your rights.

The at-fault driver or another party may be liable for your lost income, medical bills, and other damages. To schedule a consultation, call us today at (802)231-3377 in Vermont and (518) 549-6063 in New York or send us a message online. We have offices in Middlebury, Vermont and Plattsburgh, New York.