Blogs By K Ryan

What is a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality?

Doctor-Patient ConfidentialityWhen you enter a professional relationship with a medical provider, they automatically agree to avoid any unnecessary disclosures of your medical and patient records. That agreement is known as doctor-patient confidentiality. 

But sometimes, patient information is mishandled, creating a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality. 

 

What is protected under doctor-patient confidentiality?

In Florida, your medical information has two main layers of legal protection.

 

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

This 1996 federal act known as HIPAA protects the privacy of all identifying health information. 

This includes information in your medical records, conversations between your medical providers, and medical billing information.

This law’s privacy rule requires healthcare providers and organizations to develop and maintain practices that protect your healthcare information. 

The three main types of entities required to abide by HIPAA include most healthcare providers, healthcare insurance agencies, and healthcare clearinghouses. Any subcontracted third-parties or business associates granted access to your medical records by these entities also must abide by HIPPA.

HIPAA gives you the ability to provide your medical information to whomever you wish, providing you consent to the release of your records. Once you consent to share that information with your selected parties, your medical providers can’t be held responsible if those parties share your information. HIPAA limits who can access your information without your consent to entities such as law enforcement agencies. 

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services states that this law covers all communications of protected medical information, whether that communication is oral, electronic, or written. Medical or patient information that cannot be used to identify you, also called “de-identified” information, isn’t protected under HIPAA.

 

Florida State Statutes

Several Florida statutes guard your right to medical and patient privacy. 

Some of the protections include:

  • Prohibiting the sharing of patient records to parties other than the patient, their healthcare providers, and their legal representatives without written consent
  • Requiring patient notifications of breaches or court-ordered releases of their medical and mental health information
  • Prohibiting patient information from being used for marketing or solicitation purposes without written release and permission

 

There are exceptions to general protections, such as the statute that requires designated mental health treatment or receiving facilities to share patient information with members of Florida’s statewide or local advocacy councils. 

Other exemptions include the release of medical records related to infectious diseases, the use of “de-identified” information for scientific or general health purposes, and the disclosure of mental health information if a patient threatens to harm themselves or others.

 

Can I sue for a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality?

Unfortunately, you can’t sue over HIPAA violations. Instead, you must file a complaint with the appropriate federal agency, usually within 180 days of learning about the violation. The agency will investigate the claim; If the accused party is found guilty of violating HIPAA, they may be subject to fines or jail time.

However, you can sue for a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality under Florida law. Such violations are considered medical malpractice, and you may be able to recover damages including emotional pain and suffering.

If you’re confused about whether a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality can be the basis of a lawsuit, contact an experienced Florida medical malpractice lawyer. A lawyer will know what legal options are available to you.

 

What should I do if my doctor-patient confidentiality was violated?

If you believe your medical information was wrongfully shared with someone or that your medical record privacy rights were violated, contact a Florida medical malpractice lawyer right away. State law limits how long you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, so consult with an expert as soon as you can.

You have a right to privacy, especially when it comes to what happens between you and your medical providers. You shouldn’t have to be afraid of disclosing sensitive information to your doctors, something that could lead to self-censorship, delays in treatment, or misdiagnosis.

Let us help. Contact Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath today for a free medical malpractice case evaluation.

 

Lemon Cars: Your Rights When You Buy

lemon carsImagine that you just bought a brand new car from a Florida dealership; It glistens in the sun and gets great mileage, but you notice that you have to mash the breaks into the floorboard to be able to stop and the roof lining already is coming untacked. Suddenly, the joy of that new vehicle has gone sour. Are you stuck with a lemon car – also know as a defective car?

Probably not. If you bought or leased a new car in Florida and found it has defects that severely affect its use, value, or safety, you may be entitled to a refund or replacement vehicle under Florida’s Lemon Law.

 

What is Florida’s Lemon Law?

Officially known as the Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act, Florida’s Lemon Law provides consumers with legal recourse if they purchase or lease a vehicle that doesn’t conform to manufacturer warranties. 

The law states that consumers have 24 months after they receive a vehicle to alert manufacturers about “nonconformities” that affect the vehicle’s safety, value, or use. The lemon cars law only covers defects or nonconformities caused by the manufacturer or their service agents. 

Once notified, the vehicle’s manufacturer is required to perform a “reasonable” number of attempts to bring the vehicle into compliance with its standards. While the term “reasonable” may seem subjective, Florida’s attorney general states that it implies the manufacturer or dealership has attempted to correct the nonconformity at least three times.

If the issue persists, the consumer is entitled to either a refund or a replacement vehicle. 

Florida’s Lemon Law also enables consumers to seek a refund or replacement vehicle if their newly purchased or leased vehicle is out of commission for a certain number of days due to repairs for one or more nonconformities. 

Florida has a form to help you notify manufacturers of any serious defects; Manufacturer notification is required after three attempts to correct the defect or if the car has been out of service for at least 15 cumulative days for repair.

 

Is my car’s problem covered by the Florida Lemon Law?

The law allows for coverage of any defect or nonconformity that affects your car’s safety, value, or usage. That means there are a lot of defects that are potentially covered under the lemon law. If you’re confused about whether your car’s manufacturer defect(s) are covered, contact the state’s Lemon Law hotline at 1-800-321-5366 or a Florida Lemon Law lawyer for more information.

 

Is my used car covered by Florida’s Lemon Law?

Maybe.

The federal version of the lemon cars law requires sellers to list offered warranties on each car. The warranties should be listed on a Buyer’s Guide window sticker

In general, warranties can be written, spoken, or implied. A Buyer’s Guide window will list written warranties, while the car seller may add on spoken warranties, such as providing free services for a certain amount of time. 

If the seller offers any spoken warranties, be sure to get the warranties in writing. If you don’t, you may not be able to hold the seller to their spoken terms.

It’s important to note that extended warranties aren’t legally considered warranties under federal law. Think twice before shelling out more cash for something that may not benefit you as much as promised and may not give you legal protection from buying a lemon car.

Buying a car “as is” may deny any warranties, which makes it unlikely that you’ll be able to use this law if you end up with a lemon. Some states prohibit the sale of “as is” cars. If you buy a used car from a private individual, note that you will not be able to use Florida’s to recoup costs or get a replacement vehicle. 

Considering the nuances of whether a used car is covered under lemon protections, it’s best to consult with a Florida Lemon Law attorney who can walk you through your options. 

 

What if I’m not offered a replacement or refund?

If the manufacturer isn’t able to repair your vehicle within the “reasonable” number of attempts and they do not offer you a replacement vehicle or a purchase price refund, you can seek arbitration through the Florida New Vehicle Arbitration Board or the manufacturer’s arbitration team, if they have one.

You are required to attempt arbitration before seeking compensation through civil action. An experienced Florida lemon law attorney will be able to help you resolve your dispute and craft the strongest case possible so you get the compensation you need and deserve. 

Contact Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath today for a free case consultation.

 

What if your pet is injured in a car accident?

pet injured in car accidentMany Florida drivers love to see a dog peeking out of a nearby car. However, some become anxious at the thought of their dog roaming their car without any safety restraints near an open window. 

A survey co-sponsored by AAA found that 840 out of 1,000 drivers have taken their pets on a drive. Of the survey respondents, 64% had engaged in distracted driving behaviors including playing with their pets, giving their pets food or water, or driving while letting their pet sit on their laps. And any of those behaviors increase the risk of getting into a car accident.

Unfortunately, beloved pets cannot escape the horrors of a car accident and are subject to the same risks as Florida drivers. And what happens if your pet is injured in a car accident?

Are pets covered by personal injury insurance?

As cruel as it sounds, pets are often not covered by personal injury insurance as they’re considered property. That means your pet’s injuries are more likely to be covered under property damage insurance than auto insurance. However, some insurance providers do include pet injuries in collision coverage, so you must review your specific policy and ask your provider to clarify any coverage confusion. 

If you do have pet injury or special injury protection under your collision insurance, it may be usable regardless of who is at fault for the accident. Similar to personal injury protection, these policies likely will have an expense cap.

If your pet isn’t covered by your auto insurance policy and the other driver was determined to be at fault, you likely can get your pet’s treatment expenses totally or partially covered by the other driver’s insurance provider as part of a compensation claim. Your claim will be affected if you were found to be at fault. 

A Florida car accident lawyer will guide you through the nuances of what you can legally do if your pet is injured in a car accident.

Unfortunately, insurance providers will take time to investigate any claims and will do whatever they can to argue that you deserve less compensation. Depending on your pet’s injuries, you may not be able to wait for the insurance provider to complete their investigation. An experienced Florida car accident lawyer will know what options are available to you.

 

What if I have pet insurance?

Standard pet insurance covers routine vet costs and medications. It likely doesn’t extend to car accident injuries but there’s no harm in checking to be sure. When your pet’s life is at stake, it’s best to check all possible avenues to afford the care they need. 

 

What if my pet was a service animal?

If your pet is considered a service or show animal, you may be entitled to more compensation as the loss or injury of your pet can affect your lifestyle, agency, and income. A seasoned Florida car accident lawyer knows how to handle such claims to build the strongest case possible for the compensation you and your pet need.

 

What to do at the scene of the car accident?

While at the scene of the wreck, check yourself and your pet to see if either of you sustained severe injuries. If you’re severely injured, call 911 and await further instruction from emergency medical personnel. 

If your pet is severely injured, call the nearest emergency veterinarian practice or surgery center to alert them that you’re on your way. Do what you can to avoid moving your injured pet. 

If your pet doesn’t seem severely injured, contact your vet and set an appointment for an immediate check-up. Your pet may be more injured than they appear externally, and some animals will attempt to hide any pain or suffering from you.

Once you’ve assured your pet’s safety, then you can move on to how to handle the other challenges of your pet being injured in a car accident. When it comes to what to do at the scene of a car accident, there are several steps you can take to strengthen your car accident lawsuit and get the compensation you deserve.

 

Contact a Florida Car Accident Lawyer 

Seeing your pet suffer is an emotionally exhausting and heartbreaking ordeal. Let a Florida car accident lawyer help so you can focus on your furry companion. 

Contact Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath today for a free car accident pet injury case evaluation.

How do you prove your case in a premises liability lawsuit?

premises liability lawsuitFlorida premises liability law states that business or landowners owe visitors and employees a “common-law duty of care.” This means owners must exercise a reasonable duty of care when it comes to keeping their property free of hazards and potential dangers. 

If you are in a Florida slip and fall accident or trip over loose carpeting and injure yourself, you may be entitled to compensation through a premises liability lawsuit. Here is what you have to prove your case in a premises liability lawsuit.

 

Knowledge of Dangerous Condition

One of the key pieces of evidence in a premises liability lawsuit is knowledge. You must prove that the owner knew about the dangerous condition that caused your injury and that they did nothing to remedy the condition. 

Here are several factors that help to prove the owner knew about the dangerous condition.

 

How long was the condition present?

Florida law states that there is “such a length of time” after which business or property owners should reasonably know about a hazard or condition. Though the statute’s language doesn’t provide a concrete timeframe, it does provide a lens through which to look at the dangerous condition. 

This requirement would apply if the hazard or dangerous condition was present long enough that the business should have reasonably known about it or discovered the issue while caring for the business. 

It would likely not apply if you visited a business right as a terrible windstorm ripped through the area and you tripped on storm debris on the business’ walkway. A Florida premises liability lawyer will know whether your case meets this requirement and how to gather relevant evidence.

In addition to hazards that are present for “such a length of time,” property owners also should know about hazards that regularly occur on their property. Florida law says hazards that occur with regularity are considered foreseeable. 

 

Lack of Hazard Handling and Mitigation

If the property owner knows about the dangerous condition or hazard, then they are required to correct, fix, or mitigate the issue. 

How to handle hazards vary. A grocery store can put out “Caution: Wet Floor” signs, zoos may rope off visitor access to animal exhibits, and a local landscaping store may have hourly checks to make sure walkways aren’t blocked and no dangerous equipment is exposed.

Though the specifics of the mitigation techniques may change, the requirement still applies.

 

Injury Directed Caused by Hazard

When filing a premises liability claim, you must provide evidence that the premises hazard directly caused your injury. This can be as simple as showing that the business’ loose carpeting tripped you, but lawsuits aren’t known for being or staying simple. 

A Florida premises liability lawyer has access to the necessary investigative and medical resources to ensure that the timeline and cause of your injury are concise and easily understandable.

 

Bonus Variable: Intention

In rare cases, the business or property owner’s intentions may play a role in a premises liability lawsuit. 

Florida law states that proving intent in a premises liability case requires providing “clear and convincing evidence” that the property owner is guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.

“Intention misconduct” means that the property owner, with full knowledge of the “wrongfulness” of their actions, purposely created or left dangerous conditions untreated. “Gross negligence” means that the property owner acted without regard to the life or safety of the injured party.

Proving such intent opens you up to receiving punitive damages. It also complicates your lawsuit. You must work with an experienced Florida premises liability lawyer who will guide you through the process.

 

Think you have a premises liability lawsuit? 

Contact a Florida premises liability lawyer today

If you’ve been injured on someone else’s property or at a business, you may be entitled to compensation for your suffering and the property owner’s negligence. In Florida, you have up to four years to file a premises liability lawsuit, but it’s best to file as soon as possible so potent evidence and testimony aren’t diluted by time.

We understand that you may be focused on healing and getting your feet back underneath you. That’s why we’d like to help. Let an experienced Florida premises liability lawyer fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath today for a free premises liability case evaluation.

 

The Alarming Relationship Between Dementia and Elder Abuse

dementia and elder abuseWe hope that our elderly friends and family are treated with the kindness, respect, compassion, and love that all people deserve. However, the reality is far from what we would expect. Millions of elderly adults suffer from some form of elder abuse every year – whether it’s physical, sexual, neglect, or financial. 

Elder abuse, a crime that targets an already vulnerable population, is all too often overlooked – mainly because people are unaware of the signs or risk factors for abuse. Due to their lack of inhibition, diminished social contact, and problems with memory loss, people with dementia are at greater risk for abuse than the general elderly population. 

 

People With Dementia Are at an Increased Risk for Abuse

People with dementia are at risk of abuse that ranges from physical to financial to emotional, or some combination of multiple types. According to Health Affairs, a sexual abuse case study found that 60% of elderly victims suffered from dementia or another type of cognitive impairment. 

In a different study, 20% of primary family caregivers for people with dementia admitted they had neglected their charge in some way. 

These abuse statistics may seem unbelievable, and deep down we would hope they’re not true, but living with abuse is a sad reality for many elderly people living with dementia. They are less likely to advocate for themselves and often unable to communicate to others about the abuse they’re suffering. 

The Center on Elder Abuse extensively reports on the correlation between dementia and abuse and found that:

  • Sixty percent of caregivers for people with dementia had verbally abused their charge at some point 
  • Up to 10% of caregivers admitted they committed some type of physical abuse 

 

It’s alarming to think that the very people that are there to care for people with dementia, and are often paid to do so, are the ones committing the abuse. For this reason, friends, family, and loved ones of elderly dementia patients must be vigilant and aware of the increased potential for abuse. 

 

Risk Factors for Abuse

Certain characteristics and factors can make elderly people with dementia more likely to experience abuse in their lifetime. These risk factors include:

  • Agitated or aggressive behavior that may lead to conflicts with their caregiver 
  • Low levels of cognitive function
  • Self-neglect
  • Physical impairment 

 

There are also risk factors that you can be on the lookout for in caregivers. Whether it’s a family member, paid caretaker, nurse, a friend, or other care provider, it’s crucial that loved ones are aware of the risk factors in potential abusers:

  • Depression
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug abuse
  • Anxiety
  • Social isolation
  • Poor relationship with the elderly person with dementia

 

If your elderly loved one is in a nursing home or other type of care facility, be aware that high staff turnover, understaffing, and poor management could all lead to an environment that enables abuse. 

Elder abuse is sadly all too common for people with dementia. Families and friends should do everything in their power to protect elderly dementia patients. However, we know that even when a person takes every precaution, abuse is not always 100% preventable. Just know that if you discover abuse or if a loved one discloses it, you have options to prevent the abuse from happening again. 

 

What to Do if You Suspect a Loved One Is Being Abused

There are few things more unimaginable than the thought of an elderly loved one suffering abuse in silence at the hands of someone who is supposed to be a caretaker. If you believe your loved one is being mistreated or abused, you need to remove them as quickly as possible from the situation. 

Elderly people with dementia often have difficulty with their memories, so establishing a viable claim for elder abuse can be complex. However, with the help of an experienced Florida elder abuse lawyer, you can build your case and fight back against the abuser. 

 

Call a Florida Elder Abuse Attorney Today

Our lawyers have helped countless victims and their families recover millions of dollars in damages in elder abuse cases. Elder abuse is a terrible crime that leads to numerous consequences, such as pain and suffering, physical injuries, and long-term recovery expenses. Let us help you recover financial compensation to cover these damages. Holding the abuser accountable can also prevent future victims from suffering the same fate. 

If you’re ready to speak with a skilled elder abuse lawyer, you can call us today at (561) 655-1990 to schedule your risk-free case evaluation. Elder abuse law in Florida can be complicated to navigate. Having an experienced lawyer on your side can ease the burden of investigating the abuse and fighting for justice for your loved one. 

What to Do If Your Spouse Is a Victim of Wrongful Death

spousal wrongful deathIf your spouse died as a result of another person’s negligence, the feelings are overwhelming. On top of grieving a death that came too soon, you may also be dealing with hospital bills and other medical expenses. The last thing you should have to do after losing a spouse is worry about how you’re going to manage things financially.

You may be qualified to file a wrongful death claim to recover compensation for your damages. Wrongful death claims are different from murder or homicide cases in that they’re brought to civil court rather than criminal court. 

With the help of a Florida wrongful death lawyer, you can seek compensation for your losses. 

 

What You Need to Know About Wrongful Death Claims in Florida

According to Florida Statute § 678.18, if a person’s death was caused by “the wrongful act, negligence, default or breach of contract” of another individual, the surviving members of the estate (typically a spouse, minor child under 25, or the parents of the decedent) can file a wrongful death claim. 

The statute of limitations, or window of time, to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida is set at two years from the time of death. However, there are certain cases where a personal representative or lawyer for the family can file for an extension. Extensions are not always accepted and the majority of wrongful death claims in Florida are only accepted within the prescribed window of time. 

Two years may seem like more than enough time to file a wrongful death claim. However, when you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, handling funeral arrangements, and taking care of the day-to-day responsibilities that need to be met, navigating a complex legal system is usually not on the surviving family members’ minds. 

 

Potential Wrongful Death Damages 

There is no amount of money in the world that can make up for losing a spouse prematurely. While the monetary compensation you may collect does not make things whole, it can help ease any financial stress you may be experiencing in the aftermath of your loss.

Under Florida Statute § 768.21, surviving spouses may claim the following damages in a wrongful death claim:

  • Medical bills, services, and support expenses incurred from the decedent’s injury to their death 
  • Mental pain and suffering 
  • Loss of companionship and protection
  • Lost wage, loss of future earnings, and benefits provided by the decedent from date of injury to date of death with interest 
  • Loss of prospective net accumulations for the estate 
  • Funeral and burial expenses 

 

An experienced Florida wrongful death lawyer can help you maximize your recovery. While money can never right the wrong you’ve suffered nor bring back your loved one, it can help you cover the damages listed above and let you grieve in peace. 

If you believe you have a wrongful death claim, contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. 

 

How can I prove a wrongful death claim?

Proving wrongful death in Florida can be difficult. You’ll need to establish the following elements in your case to prove wrongful death:

  • Duty of Care: The person held liable had a responsibility of “due care” to the victim.
  • Breach of Duty: The breach or failure of the defendant to uphold that duty of “due care.”
  • Causation: Proof that the breach of duty directly caused the victim’s death.
  • Damages: Proof the victim actually suffered damages (in wrongful death cases, “death” would be the primary damage caused, but there may be others)

Common wrongful death cases our firm has handled include:

  • Car or truck accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Drunk driving
  • Workplace accidents 
  • Defective products
  • Other acts of negligence 

 

Call a Wrongful Death Attorney Today

At Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath, we do everything we can to serve our clients with compassion, respect, and the advocacy they deserve. Our firm uses its collective knowledge and experience to help countless spouses recover damages in wrongful death claims. Losing a spouse is a terrible tragedy and nobody deserves to suffer financially in the aftermath of such a loss. 

To learn more about how we handle wrongful death cases in Florida, call us at (561) 655-1990. We urge you to schedule a risk-free case evaluation so we can better understand your situation and ensure we have time to pursue your case within the statute of limitations.