Baltimore auto accident lawyer

Can a Defendant Access My Mental Health Records if I Sue for Injury in Maryland?

Mental health treatment is an extremely private matter, but it might come to light against your wishes in a personal injury lawsuit. Under certain circumstances, a defendant you are suing might have access to some of your mental health records.

A defendant might have access to your mental health records if they are relevant to some part of your case. This often happens if the plaintiff puts their mental health at issue, such as in claims of damages for mental anguish. If the defendant obtains your mental records, they might try to undermine your claims somehow. For example, they might argue that your mental anguish does not stem from the defendant’s actions, and they should not have to pay for those damages. To protect your privacy, we can argue that your mental health records are beyond the scope of discovery, perhaps because they are irrelevant or overly prejudicial. If the defendant is granted access to your records, we can make sure they only have access to limited portions of your records that are absolutely necessary for the case.

For a free case assessment, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 and talk to our Maryland personal injury attorneys.

When Your Mental Health Records May Be Used by a Defendant in a Maryland Injury Lawsuit

In order for the defendant to get access to something private and privileged like your mental health records, they need to explain why these records are relevant to the case and what makes them so important. Mental health records, like medical records, are privileged. While the defendant might still get access to privileged information, the court will scrutinize their request a lot more.

Generally, a defendant might want access to a plaintiff’s mental health records if the plaintiff puts their mental health at issue in the case. If you claim that the injuries inflicted by the defendant have had an impact on your mental or emotional well-being, your mental health records might immediately become relevant.

This is common when plaintiffs claim damages for psychological distress. If the plaintiff received mental health treatment related to their psychological distress, the defendant may move to compel the discovery of these records.

Usually, when a plaintiff puts their mental health at issue in a lawsuit, they are prepared to use their own mental health records as evidence to back up their claims of mental distress or anguish. If you plan to use your mental health records as evidence to support your claims, we must be prepared to disclose those records during discovery.

If the plaintiff has not raised any issues regarding their mental health or psychological distress, the defendant likely cannot compel discovery, although they might try. Our Towson personal injury attorneys can help you explain to the court why the records are irrelevant so we can withhold them from discovery.

How to Prevent the Defendant From Accessing Your Mental Health Records in a Maryland Injury Lawsuit

We can argue that your mental health records are not within the scope of discovery because they are privileged information. Md. R. Civ. Pro. Cir. Ct. § 2-402(e). Generally, information that is not privileged is free game for discovery. Mental health records are often protected by doctor-patient confidentiality or something similar. We can withhold your records until the defendant explains why your privileged information should be disclosed to the court. The court might side with us and shield your mental health records from discovery.

Perhaps you have received mental health treatment but for reasons or mental conditions that have nothing to do with the lawsuit. For example, the defendant might want access to your mental health records because you claimed non-economic damages related to psychological distress. However, you have not been seen by a mental health professional for distress related to the accident. Instead, you have been receiving treatment for other mental health conditions that existed before the accident. In such a scenario, your mental health records should remain confidential as they have nothing to do with the case.

Another strategy is to avoid bringing up your mental health in your case if you can. For some, non-economic damages for pain and psychological distress might not amount to much. It might be better to focus on getting fair economic damages. If you do not bring up the issue of your mental health, there is very little reason for the defendant to do so.

What to Do if the Defendant is Granted Access to Your Mental Health Records in a Maryland Injury Lawsuit

If the defendant is ultimately given access to your mental health records, there might still be ways to restrict what we have to disclose. We must be very specific about what parts of your mental health records must be disclosed.

Some plaintiffs have a long history of mental health treatment that goes way back before the accident in question. Your attorney can help you limit the scope of discovery of your mental health records. If the accident occurred on February 1, 2024, we can ask the court to restrict discovery to only mental health records from that date onward.

We can also use the evidence of your records to your advantage. Often, mental health records come into play because the plaintiff has raised issues regarding their psychological well-being, often in relation to non-economic damages. If your mental health records indicate that you did indeed suffer psychologically as a direct result of the defendant’s actions, your mental records might help you much more than they harm you in court.

Call Our Maryland Personal Injury Lawyers for Help with Your Case

For a free case assessment, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 and talk to our Ocean City, MD personal injury attorneys.