When you have an injury claim with an insurance company, they will most likely request that you release your medical records to them. They may send you paperwork (a form titled “release” or “authorization”) with a request for your signature.

Regardless of how the insurance company requests access to your medical records, you shouldn’t provide it to them or sign anything without consulting with an attorney first.

If you’ve requested compensation for medical expenses from an insurance company, then you’ve probably already sent them copies of the relevant medical records to accompany your injury demand letter, which means they have the information they need. Insurance companies often try to get access to your past medical records so they can find anything to use against you in your claim. Remember that the insurance company wants to settle the claim for the minimum possible amount. Ideally, they want to avoid having to pay you anything.

Of course, one reason to say no to any requests to review your medical records is because that’s your private information. Why allow an insurance adjuster to snoop around through your entire medical history?

However, the more pressing concern in regards to your injury claim is the many ways that the insurance company can use your medical records against you. Here are a few common tactics:

Preexisting Conditions

The first thing the insurance company is going to do when it gets your medical records is attempt to tie previous complaints and symptoms to your injury claim. If you suffered a herniated disc in your back during the accident, and months or years prior to it you had mentioned to your doctor that you had a bit of back pain, the insurance company will then try to claim that you may have already had back problems. Depending on what the insurance company finds, it could deny your claim or only offer to pay for a portion of your medical bills.

Inconsistent Statements

You may not know the full extent of your injuries immediately after an accident. You could get checked out by a doctor and feel fine, then wake up the next day in agony. The insurance company will look for statements that contradict your current injury claim to try and deny it. If you told a doctor that you felt fine shortly after the accident, expect the insurance company to use that against you. If you didn’t start having symptoms of an injury until a few days after the accident, the insurance company will claim they aren’t related.

Frequent Visits to the Doctor

Believe it or not, an insurance company can even use how often you visit the doctor against you. If you were in poor health before the accident or visited the doctor regularly, the insurance company may attempt to label you as fragile or injury-prone prior to the accident.

Always Consult an Attorney First

You may not be able to just deny access to your medical records if you want to get paid on your injury claim. But you never want to give up more than what’s absolutely necessary, which is why it’s wise to consult with an attorney first. Your attorney will know which medical records you need to release, so if the insurance company asks for anything, you can direct them to contact your attorney. When it comes to an injury claim, the insurance company is against you. To get the best results, you want to have someone on your side, and that’s where an attorney is extremely helpful.

Independent Medical Examinations

You and the insurance company may not agree on the extent of your injuries. In these situations, the insurance company may request that you get an independent medical examination for a second opinion. This is rarely if ever a good idea, and you should always decline except in situations where the law requires it (and a request is not one of them). Insurance companies select and pay doctors to perform these examinations, giving the doctors incentive to find nothing wrong. There’s no way for you to be certain of the doctor’s impartiality, so the smart decision is to decline the examination.