What is a Letter of Authorization?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen
A letter of authorization may be required in order to obtain a patient's medical records.
A letter of authorization may be required in order to obtain a patient's medical records.

A letter of authorization is a document written by one person to authorize someone else to perform a particular task on his or her behalf. This is essentially a legal document in which a person grants permission to someone else to do something that he or she may not otherwise legally be allowed to do. For example, the medical records of an individual are generally private and medical professionals may not legally release those records to others. A letter of authorization written by a patient to his or her doctor, granting the doctor permission to send those records to someone else would then allow the doctor to do so.

A letter of authorization may document that a lawyer has authorization to act as legal representation for a client.
A letter of authorization may document that a lawyer has authorization to act as legal representation for a client.

While there are many different reasons why such a document might be needed or created, some of the most common uses of this type of letter are for medical records, legal representation, or to allow someone else to act on a person’s behalf. If someone is involved in a lawsuit based on injuries sustained in a car accident, for example, then he or she may need to write to a hospital or doctor’s office permitting them to release medical records to a lawyer. Someone transferring between doctors or hospitals may also be asked for such a letter prior to records being transferred.

Though not always necessary, a letter of authorization might also be used by a lawyer to document that he or she is authorized to act as legal representation for a person. This allows the lawyer to act as though he or she were the client. One can also be required in situations in which a person is acting on someone else’s behalf to receive financial compensation. Someone receiving insurance money, for example, could authorize another person to accept that money for him or her.

A letter of authorization should be written in clear and concise language, regardless of its purpose. The exact nature of the duties and responsibilities being granted in the document should be explained, without room for interpretation. Someone who is authorizing the release of certain medical records, for example in an insurance claim, should indicate exactly which records are to be released and to whom they are to be given. This prevents the authorization from being abused or used as a sort of “carte blanche” to take greater action than was granted.

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I signed one of my kids up at a new daycare recently and was surprised that they made me provide a letter of authorization for anyone who was going to pick up my child on my behalf. I had to provide the person's name and contact information. This even applied for my husband.

I suppose with all the stories floating around of how children have been kidnapped, even by relatives, that this sort of precaution works for the school's advantage. I was actually pretty happy that they went to so much trouble to make sure that the kids were going into the right hands. I shudder to think of them not checking ID when someone goes in to pick up a child.


Letters of authorization can really be used for the simplest of things. I remember after I moved out of my parents housing still having mail delivered to them while I traveled. Despite my parents having the same address as me they needed a letter of authorization just to pick up my parcels.

I eventually got around this extra bit of paperwork by sending everything "care of". It is really amazing to me how cautious every one is these days. I can kind of understand with the post office, but still, if the person lives in the same house as you and their picking up your mail, does it really seem like something that could be fraudulent?


@lighth0se33 - The daycare where I leave my daughter every day does the same thing. Even if they are only going so far as a local fast food restaurant, they make the parents sign a letter of authorization for their child to travel.

They do this because a few years back, one mother became enraged that they took her daughter to a movie. This particular parent had a religious reason for not going to movies, and she felt her daughter had been corrupted, even though the movie was a G-rated cartoon.

She tried to sue the daycare, and even though she lost the case, the workers realized that they had to be more careful in the future. They never would have imagined anyone having a problem with an innocent movie, but they decided not to assume anything anymore.


My babysitter tries to do everything by the book, and I don’t blame her. Parents seem to be hungry for lawsuits these days, and she does everything she can to avoid them.

She babysits seven children on a regular basis. Whenever she is planning to take them out, whether it be to a lake or a public playground, she makes the parents sign a letter of authorization, which she writes herself and includes specific details.

She corners the parents as they pick up their children and gets them to sign the letter right there. If one refuses to sign it, then she tells them she will be unable to babysit their child on the day of the planned trip.


I tried for awhile to make it in the music business, and I had to write a letter of authorization for my manager so that he could get publishing rights to my songs. I could have gotten the rights myself, but I didn’t have the money at the time.

Whoever has publishing rights gets money every time a song is played on the radio. Since I never got airplay, he never made any money off of my songs, but because I wrote and performed them, I had to grant him permission through the letter.

If you have publishing rights, you also have the right to sell the songs. So, I no longer own my own songs. I kind of wish I had never wrote the letter, even though I’m not trying to make it anymore.


I visited two different nephrologists, and I had to sign two letters of authorization for both of them to communicate about my condition. The first one recommended me to the second, because he was in charge of a clinical trial involving a possible cure for my condition.

I signed the letter of authorization for my original doctor to fax my medical records to the clinical trial doctor. Once I had undergone an exam, and EKG, urinalysis, blood test, and MRI with him, I had to sign the second letter of authorization for him to fax the new information back to my first doctor to keep on file.

Since I have to go in for clinical study visits four times a year, my original nephrologist does not require me to come in for yearly exams. He keeps my information updated with faxes from the study doctor, and he has faith that he will take good care of me.


When I first began teaching school about a decade ago (wow, I hadn’t realized it was that long) things were a lot simpler than they are now.

You primarily needed letters of authorization for things like taking children on field trips and the like. However, when I left the school system a few years ago you even had to have permission to take the student's pictures on file.

Apparently, the rise in parent’s suing school systems over seemingly ridiculous matters (and winning, mind you) has made schools across the nation gather their forces.

As a result, there is paperwork and permission slips for everything. No one thought about how the teachers are the ones who have to make up the templates, copy them and get them out to the parents. Then they are responsible for getting them back in.

When you do a lot of things for your students, this can become very time consuming. However, you don’t get a raise with all of the added responsibility and time gone from your personal life. Heck, you’re lucky to get a thanks.


I was in a serious car accident some years ago where a man driving an eighteen wheeler wasn’t paying attention and rear-ended me at a stop light. He’d been on my bumper for miles, anyway.

Regardless, I had some serious nerve damage in my neck and shoulder and his insurance company didn’t want to pay my medical bills.

I had to get a lawyer, and he had to have a letter of authorization from me to allow him to have access to all of the documents he would need to try the case.

Ultimately, the whole thing didn’t work out too well anyway, but at least they did pay some of my medical bills and insurance paid the rest. I still have pain from that accident on a regular basis, however.

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    • A letter of authorization may be required in order to obtain a patient's medical records.
      A letter of authorization may be required in order to obtain a patient's medical records.
    • A letter of authorization may document that a lawyer has authorization to act as legal representation for a client.
      A letter of authorization may document that a lawyer has authorization to act as legal representation for a client.