Reviewing and Getting Copies of Your Medical Records

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
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Do I have the right to look at and get copies of the medical records kept by my health care provider?

Yes, almost always. (There are a few exceptions. See the fourth section of this publication.)

Your health care provider must explain any abbreviations or codes in your medical records.

How do I exercise my right to look at and get copies of my medical records?

You must give your health care provider a written request to look at and get copies of your medical records. Then the health care provider must, "as promptly as required under the circumstances," honor your request. The health care provider generally has fifteen days to do so.

Will my health care provider charge me for copies of my medical file?

Your health care provider may charge a "reasonable fee" for the copies of the records you ask for. You may have to pay before you get the copies. In 2013, a health care provider may charge, as a "reasonable fee," up to 65 cents a page for the first thirty pages, 50 cents a page for extra pages, and a fifteen dollar "clerical fee."

Can my health care provider refuse my request?

Yes, when

  • The health care provider believes the information would be harmful to your health.

  • Honoring a request would reveal the source of confidential information, and confidentiality is appropriate.

  • Honoring the request would endanger someone's health or safety.

  • The provider used or compiled the health care information just for a court case.

If the health care provider denies your written request for any of the above reasons, s/he must try to separate the information s/he believes s/he should not release from that which s/he can, and provide you with the information that s/he can release.

If the health care provider denies your request because of a claim of danger to yourself or another, s/he must tell you that you have the right, at your own expense, to have another health care provider inspect the file to determine if you may look at and get copies of the records.

I asked to look at and get copies of my health care file. My request was denied. What can I do?

Talk to a lawyer. You can get a court order forcing your health care provider to make your records available to you. You may also get actual damages for any prior refusal to allow you to examine and get copies of your medical records. You may also get lawyer's fees and expenses to cover the costs of the lawsuit if you win. If you have a good case, a lawyer may represent you without a fee, and try to get attorney's fees from the other side. Many lawyers will talk to you for free to evaluate your case. You can find a lawyer by looking in the Yellow Pages or contacting your local bar association.

The law that gives you the right to examine and get copies of your medical records is in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) at chapter 70.02. Most public libraries and county courthouse libraries have copies of the Revised Code of Washington. Or read it online at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=70.02.


This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.
This information is current as of the date of its printing, October 2013.
© 2013 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014

(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial use only.)