I suggest that you get the executor of your uncle's estate (or his/her attorney) to sign a HIPAA approved medical release and send it to the dental office.
Didn't the VA lawyer you spoke to discuss this with you? If not, follow up and ask him/her about it.
I am not licensed in VA and can offer you only general advice. Generally it is the personal representative of the estate who has the right to obtain the decedent's medical records and bring the suit for wrongful death. Some states have enacted statutes under the chapter for medical neglgience that will allow a beneficiary to obtain medical records for purpose of investigating whether a claim can be brought. Check with the lawyer you have spoken to in order to find out what the specific VA laws are regarding this. You can also look at the death certificate to determine who the informant is. Some providers will turn the records over to the informant with a signed HIPAA authoritzation. HIPAA is the federal law that protects the privacy of fmedical records. In addition, many providers will charge for medical records.
IN the end, you may have to set up an estate and have the PR request the records, but check with the local lawyer to be sure. Good luck and I am sorry for your loss.
Many states, including Virginia, have laws that govern medical records requests.
The link below will take you to a web page lists the various state statutes that control the amount of money doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers can charge a patient for copies of their medical records, as well as records provided to the patient's attorney or law firm for use in personal injury cases:
From that web page, here are two relevant statutes from Virginia:
Va. Code Section 8.01-413 (2003)
A reasonable charge may be made for the service of maintaining, retrieving, reviewing and preparing such copies. Except for copies of X-ray photographs, however, such charges shall not exceed:
-- fifty cents per page for up to fifty pages
-- twenty-five cents a page thereafter for copies from paper or other hard copy generated from computerized or other electronic storage, or other photographic, mechanical, electronic, imaging or chemical storage process
-- one dollar per page for copies from microfilm or other micrographic processplus all postage and shipping costs and a search and handling fee not to exceed ten dollars.
Copies of hospital, nursing facility, physician's, or other health care provider's records or papers shall be furnished within fifteen days of such request.
VA Code § 32.1-127.1:03. Health Records
If an individual or his agent/attorney requests a copy of his own medical records, the health care entity may impose a reasonable cost-based fee, which shall include the cost of supplies for and labor of copying the requested information, as well as postage where applicable.
I hope this information helps you.
Law Offices of Thomas J. Lamb, P.A.
Lumina Station, Suite 225
1908 Eastwood Road
Wilmington, NC 28403
Sign up to receive a 3-part series of useful information and advice about personal injury law.