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Can You Sue for a HIPAA Violation?

In some states, it is possible to sue for a HIPAA violation on the grounds of breach of contract or negligence of a healthcare provider or insurance company. The burden of proof will be on the plaintiff as they will need to prove that harm or damage was caused as a result of the wrongdoing or negligence of the healthcare provider or insurance company. 

Why We Need HIPAA Laws

The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protects the rights of patients. It was first introduced in 1996 to resolve the issue of insurance coverage for temporarily unemployed individuals. The HIPAA Laws have evolved since then to include several rules and regulations that protect the rights of patients. 

The HIPAA legislation also protects the medical data of each patient. A patient's personal and medical history is restricted to their authorized healthcare provider and the insurance company.  

All organizations that are covered under HIPAA law must comply with HIPAA rules. This includes procedures that must be followed to prevent the breach of privacy and security of the patients. 

If a healthcare organization fails to protect its patients’ medical records, it can face serious penalties. With HIPAA laws, patients can authorize who their information is shared with. They also have the right to obtain copies of their medical records and request corrections to their medical records. 

Examples of HIPAA Violations 

The most common violation of HIPAA law is divulging patient information to an unauthorized party without the patient's consent. Employees cannot share patient information with their family, friends, or third parties. 

Another common HIPAA violation is stolen items due to negligence. Suppose a computer that contains sensitive medical information of the patient is lost or stolen due to the negligence of the organization. In that case, it can result in hefty HIPAA penalties and fines for the organization. 

Can you sue for HIPAA violations? 

There are several types of HIPAA violations, so you must determine if your case qualifies as a violation. Seeking guidance from a HIPAA violation lawyer can help you get on track to get compensation for any potential HIPAA violation. To initiate the proceedings, you will need to file a complaint at the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services. 

You have 180 days from when the violation is discovered to file a complaint. If required, you can file for an extension. You will have to wait for a response from the OCR to determine if a violation was made. Keep in mind that the complaint can only be filed against the organizations that are covered under HIPAA regulations. 

There are a few ways the complaint can be resolved before any legal action is required. For example, the organization can accept the mistake and take action against the healthcare worker. In case of a criminal violation, the case can be taken to the Department of Justice. 

How to Take Legal Action over a HIPAA Violation?

After filing a complaint at the OCR website or writing a form to the department, you should keep a copy of the complaint for your attorney. It is important to note that you cannot sue an individual directly for HIPAA violations. HIPAA does not include allowing for "private right of action," which means a patient cannot directly sue for a HIPAA violation. 

A HIPAA-covered entity can only be sued if the violation of HIPAA Law involves the negligence of state or federal laws. However, in case of a criminal or harmful violation of your healthcare record, you can sue for compensation. 

There may be other victims of HIPAA violation at the hands of the same healthcare provider or insurance company. This means a class action lawsuit involving multiple victims may be a stronger case to pursue against the healthcare provider or insurance company. However, you should know that if there was no harm incurred as a result of the HIPAA violations, there is unlikely to be any financial compensation for you as a victim. Your attorney can guide you on whether your case qualifies for any other laws that protect your rights as a patient. 

When to Hire an Attorney

If you believe you are a victim of a HIPAA violation, you can hire an attorney to sue. A HIPAA violation attorney is well-versed in different aspects of HIPAA law. This includes exclusions to the HIPAA law. They can file a state court lawsuit on your behalf and handle communications with the Department of Justice and OCR on your behalf.  

The attorney can also guide you on the steps to take to maximize your chances of winning the lawsuit. This includes guidance on whether your case has the foundation to be successful in a lawsuit or if an alternate course of legal action will be more suitable.