The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, protects you and your private information as a patient from being carelessly or maliciously disclosed by medical providers or insurance companies. If one of these actors responsible for your data shares it or distributes it without your consent, they should be subject to a fine and you might be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit for a HIPAA violation.
Recovering damages for a HIPAA violation can be challenging, as you can’t necessarily sue your provider solely for violating HIPAA. If reported the provider may have to pay a fine or eventually lose the ability to practice or be charged with a crime if enough violations occur. None of those consequences actually return any damages to the patient in the case, however.
What Are Your Options?
If a doctor violates your privacy, you may have the ability to sue, but you will need to base the case on something beyond the simple HIPAA violation. The privacy violation can be the evidence or a contributing factor in a lawsuit, but the case will have to depend on some other specific state law that the provider violated.
Some more serious HIPAA violations may rise to the level of medical malpractice, in which case you can use that to sue. To meet this standard you have to prove that the violation of your privacy violated a basic standard of care or expectation for that organization or practitioner.
An insurance company or hospital employee might mishandle your sensitive files, but that generally won’t qualify. Altering your files or actively and intentionally sharing your confidential medical history with others might qualify enough to constitute medical malpractice.
Breach of Contract
Another law common throughout states that might apply for a HIPAA violation is a breach of contract. Many states may recognize HIPAA as part of a largely unwritten contract between the patient and the medical provider. You can sue the doctor or another provider for failing to adhere to the contract between you as patient and provider.
Whatever kind of lawsuit you pursue against your doctor over the HIPAA violations, you may have to provide evidence of harm they caused you. In order to qualify for damages through medical malpractice or a tort like a breach of contract, you will have to demonstrate how the provider hurt you by violating your privacy.
If your health, reputation or financial situation were affected by the infringement of your privacy, you might qualify for significant damages as a result.
The laws around these issues are complex and play out in very particular ways. Generally, any lawsuit is also going to be a long and expensive endeavor. If you are considering filing a lawsuit and you think you might have a strong case, consult a lawyer with open lawsuit experience in the field and see how they can help you. A lawyer can help you objectively assess your options and find the best way to seek retribution.