How to File a Lawsuit for a HIPAA Violation

By Francine Richards - Updated April 10, 2017
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Lawsuits violating privacy are protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and filed with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Office for Civil Rights (OCR). HIPAA protects citizens' private health information including information contained in medical records. An actual lawsuit technically is not based on the HIPAA violation; rather the lawsuit is based on violation of personal privacy. Anyone has the right to file a lawsuit but realize the basis is not on the HIPAA act itself.

Complaint Form Packages

Obtain the OCR Health Information Privacy complaint form package by visiting their website and clicking the links available to open the PDF documents or by completing the online complaint form.

While the online portal is quick and easy, you may prefer to complete a hard copy and get a certified mail receipt of delivery as documentation. If choosing the physical copy method, print the complaint and consent form and send it to the OCR regional office located closest to where the violation occurred. For a list of OCR regional offices, visit their website. Email, mail or fax the forms to the appropriate OCR office.

File complaints within 180 days of the alleged violation. The OCR investigates alleged violations, initiating corrective action and enforcing penalties where deemed necessary. Filing a complaint is not filing a lawsuit, but is the first step in recording the alleged violation.

Filing the Lawsuit

Contact an attorney if you wish to file a lawsuit against the individual, business or organization based on the privacy violation. Wait until you have filed the official HIPAA complaint before filing the lawsuit. Bring the complaint form package and any supporting documentation to the attorney at your first meeting. Provide your attorney with copies of all documents as well as contact information of witnesses who corroborate your claim.

Cases with many people claiming HIPAA violations can become larger class action lawsuits. If you are aware of others affected in the same manner as you by the company in question, refer them to you attorneys to build a stronger case.

Settle or Court

Settle the case or go to court. Your attorney will attempt to negotiate a settlement with the violator’s attorney. Larger companies will often settle rather than extend litigation and potential negative publicity. If settlement is not an option, a court trial will occur. Appear with documentation, witnesses and your OCR complaint. A judge and possibly a jury will decide the validity and penalty, if applicable.

About the Author

Francine Richards is a licensed multi-state insurance agent with years of human resources and insurance industry experience. Her work has appeared on Blue Cross Blue Shield websites and newsletters, the Houston Chronicle and The Nest. Richards holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of Maryland.

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