January Newsletter 

 January 1, 2016

By  LMW Attorneys

What You Need to Know If You Are In a Personal Injury Situation

Your medical records may be key to your case. If you believe you have a claim as a result of an accident, you may need to prove that your injuries – not a previous medical condition – are the result of the accident. Sometimes claimants need their medical records for a specialist or a recommended new doctor. You have a right to your medical records.

The Federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides you the right to have copies of your medical records from any medical provider. Of course, there are exceptions.

HIPAA gives you the right to copies of your own medical records or to someone else’s records if you are their designated representative. Providers have the right to withhold psychotherapy notes, the information being gathered for a lawsuit or medical information that could be considered to endanger your physical safety or that of another person. If a provider chooses to withhold your medical records, they must provide you with a written denial letter.
HIPAA requires medical providers to honor your request for copies of medical records within 30 days. If there is a delay, the provider must provide a letter giving you a reason for the delay. Regulations vary from state to state regarding the retention of medical records and the response of the medical provider to a request for copies of medical records. In Florida, a provider can require reasonable costs of reproducing the requested records: “the reasonable costs of reproducing copies of written or typed documents or reports shall be no more than $1 per page for the first 25 pages and 25 cents for each additional page.” Rule 64B8-10.003, Florida Administrative Code.

For a worker’s compensation case, a provider may charge up to 50 cents per page for medical records. While a provider can condition the release of medical records on up-front payment of the copying costs, the release cannot be conditioned on payment of the physician’s bill for services rendered. Upon the receipt of a written request, the physician must provide the patient with a copy of his medical records within a reasonable time, regardless of whether or not there are outstanding charges due on the patient’s account.

It Helps to Use the Following Procedure If You Need to Request Your Medical Records:

  • Find out where your request needs to be sent. Some providers use a 3rd party service to hold and copy patients’ medical records and others have specific personnel assigned to medical records requests. If you send your request to the correct location or provider initially, you will get better results.
  • Be sure to submit your request in writing for obvious reasons. Include your full name, address, telephone numbers, e-mail address, date of birth and your medical record number if you have it.
  • Most providers require a release form. You can find a release form on our website – www.LMWAttorneys.com
  • If you wish to view the original copies of your medical records, you must make the request. Usually, you will have an appointment scheduled for this activity, and you will not be able to take the records out of the office. You are only entitled to copies.
  • You can narrow your request (since you will likely be paying for copies) to a specific timeframe or which medical condition records you want to copy.

Sometimes it may be that records appear to be missing from your medical records. This may be a mistake or an oversight that requires some follow-up. If you believe that a hospital or another provider has failed to provide medical information that may be key to a Personal Injury claim, you have some courses of action: 1. You can file a complaint with the state’s medical board. However, if you are involved in a lawsuit, this could take considerable time and could affect your case. A study found that medical boards took 2.6 years to investigate complaints. 2. Consult a Personal Injury attorney. Craig@LMWAttorneys.com We can provide a free consultation and help you through the maze of obtaining the correct and required medical records for your case. In other words, don’t try this at home. Let us work on your behalf so you don’t have to work your way through the maze of possible entanglements. We are here for you when you need us. If in doubt, call (727) 478-4125.

What You Need to Know About Social Networking Sites And Stalking

Since January was dedicated to Stalking Awareness, it seems appropriate to educate our newsletter recipients about stalking that happens on Internet Social Networking Sites. The increasing use of social media to communicate and share information opens the possibility of stalking. It is important to know what recourse you have if you think you are the victim of stalking.

Social Networking sites are on-line communities where people with mutual interests share information, photos, backgrounds, activities, relationship status and more. Some sites advance business connections, networking, socializing, recreational interests, sports involvement and more. There are millions of people connecting to these sites. It is important that you and your children, especially teens and young adults, know the risks when they post information about themselves.

On most sites, you can post personal information — images, photos, preferences, etc. Members can select a circle of friends who can post messages on their profile, add comments or access pages not visible to those who are not identified as “friends.” If a site does not allow a user to limit access to specific information or members have not exercised the options to control access, then everything posted can be visible to anyone who visits the site.

Social networking is very inviting because it provides entry to the world of “friends” which leads many users to overlook the associated dangers. Many times young users fail to see that a social networking site is a public bulletin board with literally millions of other visitors – not just their circle of “friends”. The posting of personal information can lead to contact with a predator, identity theft, fraud or stalking. Stalkers have posted bogus profiles to disparage, misrepresent, harass, threaten or embarrass their victims.

What You Need To Know About Social Networking Sites And StalkingStalkers are increasingly using social networking sites to introduce spyware, i.e. software installed surreptitiously that gathers information about a user’s browsing habits, or intercepts the user’s personal data, secretly transmitting this information to a third party. Infection rates are increasing, and once downloaded spyware allows a stalker to eavesdrop on information such e-mails, instant messages, passwords and websites visited.

Stalkers who use social networking sites are subject to criminal charges. In many states, cyberstalking statutes allow prosecutors to charge those who use technology to stalk or harass their victims. The majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know: 61 percent of female victims and 44 percent of male victims are stalked by a current or former intimate partner or acquaintance. About half of all victims said that they were stalked before the age of 25. A smaller, but a significant percentage were stalked between the ages of 11 and 17.

“Approaching the victim or showing up in places when the victim didn’t want them to be there; making unwanted telephone calls; leaving the victim unwanted messages (text or voice); and watching or following the victim from a distance, or spying on the victim with a listening device, camera, or GPS system were the most commonly reported stalker tactics by both female and male victims of stalking.” (Matthew J. Breiding et al., “Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization”)

Of course, the best defense against social networking site stalking is to use extreme and informed caution. Carefully consider what you post. To quote, Marie Symeou “Life isn’t about just talking, it’s about thinking too.” It is important to remember that once a comment, photo or video is posted, it is permanent. Even deleted information can be recovered. Users of social networks can protect themselves by limiting their on-line “friends” to people they actually know, and by taking advantage of the privacy settings available.

Although stalkers can find ways around these protections, use them to be less exposed to the dangers that are out there. Educate yourself, your family and especially your children. Practice safe social networking.

If you have questions about stalking or think you might be experiencing stalking, call Frances Werner-Watkins at (727) 478-4125.