Brooks, LeBoeuf, Bennett, Foster & Gwartney partner, Scott Gwartney, was recently invited to speak at the Florida Bar’s Elder Law Section at their annual Board Certification Review court at the Reunion Resort in Orlando. The two-day event enjoyed a record attendance, and Mr. Gwartney spoke on the subject of “Long Term Care Litigation for the Elder Law Attorney.”
We are proud to offer our Freedom Scholarship for the 12th year. This essay contest is open to all 11th and 12th grade students in Leon, Wakulla, Gadsden and Jefferson counties. The deadline for all essays is Friday, March 9th. For complete rules and an application, please visit our website.
Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.720 (Mediation Procedures) has been amended. Unless otherwise stipulated by the parties, each party, 10 days prior to appearing at a mediation conference, shall file with the court and serve all parties a written notice identifying the person or persons who will be attending the mediation conference as a party representative or as an insurance representative, and confirming that those persons have full authority to settle without further consultation. The failure to file a confirmation of authority, or failure of the persons actually identified in the confirmation to appear at the mediation, shall create a rebuttable presumption of a failure to appear at a duly noticed mediation conference, subjecting the party to sanctions, including the award of mediation fees, attorneys’ fees, and costs.
If you would like a copy of the form we have created in order to comply with amended Rule 1.720, please give us a call.
An inspector for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently advised federal lawmakers that Medicare officials need to do more to stop doctors from prescribing powerful psychiatric drugs to nursing home patients with dementia, an unapproved practice that continues despite repeated government warnings. Antipsychotic drugs that are designed to control hallucinations, delusions and other abnormal behavior in people suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are given to hundreds of thousands of elderly nursing home patients in the U.S. to pacify aggressive behavior related to dementia. Drugs like Seroquel and Zyprexa are known for their sedative effect, often putting patients to sleep. Because these drugs can increase the risk of death in seniors, the Food and Drug Administration has issued multiple warnings against prescribing the drugs for dementia. Antipsychotics raise blood sugar and cholesterol, often resulting in weight gain.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provides health coverage to nearly 80 million senior, poor and disabled Americans. A report by Health and Human Services issued in May found that 83 percent of Medicare claims for antipsychotics were for residents with dementia, the condition specifically warned against in the drugs’ labeling. Nearly 305,000 nursing home patients were prescribed antipsychotics. HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson proposed that Medicare force nursing homes to pay for drugs that are prescribed inappropriately, and potentially bar nursing homes that don’t use antipsychotics appropriately from Medicare. While doctors are permitted to prescribe drugs for off-label uses, it is illegal for drug companies to promote uses that have not been cleared by the FDA. In recent years several pharmaceutical companies have paid huge fines to the Department of Justice in cases involving off-label marketing of antipsychotics.
If you have a loved one in a nursing home, ask for a list of medications that have been prescribed. If antipsychotic drugs are on that list, talk to the attending physician about the rationale for these drugs. If you are in doubt as to the appropriateness of these drugs, ask more questions and/or get a second opinion. Call the attorneys at Brooks, LeBoeuf, Bennett, Foster & Gwartney for a free consultation if you have concerns that your loved one is being abused or neglected in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
In 2003, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed the constitutional amendment known as the Patient’s Right to Know Act, also commonly referred to as Amendment 7. The act gave people the ability to obtain and review records and reports of adverse medical incidents involving healthcare facilities and healthcare providers in Florida. This constitutional amendment removed the secrecy surrounding these documents and gives consumers the ability to be better informed in the background, history, and performance of healthcare providers in the state.
As you might expect, from the very beginning, the healthcare industry has thrown up road blocks and legal challenges throughout the state, attempting to block access to these damaging records and reports. Our law firm has successfully defeated the hospitals’ attempts to circumvent Amendment 7 in all of our cases.
Rather than complying with the Patient’s Right to Know Act, these cases are usually appealed. Fortunately, the Florida Supreme Court in the case of West Florida Regional Medical Center, Inc. vs. See has just filed an opinion on behalf of, and in support of, the Patient’s Right to Know Act thereby removing the longstanding veil of confidentiality and secrecy that previously protected these adverse incident reports. If you have questions regarding your rights to access records pursuant to Amendment 7, call the attorneys at Brooks, LeBoeuf, Bennett, Foster & Gwartney for a free consultation.
Following a car accident you will be contacted by the other driver’s insurance adjuster asking you to give a recorded statement about the accident. Do not give a statement without first talking to your own insurance agent. If you’ve hired a lawyer, request that all statements be coordinated through your legal representative. Even if the other driver was cited for the crash, the adjuster may ask loaded questions like: “How could you have avoided the crash?” or “How much do you think you are responsible?” No matter how friendly the adjuster may seem, your ability to settle a meritorious claim can be severely compromised by your statement. If you do give a statement without legal representation, take your time and refuse to continue with your statement if you feel uncomfortable or intimidated.
If the adjuster calls within a day or two of the crash and offers you a quick settlement for your “inconvenience”, don’t take it. The faster you settle, the less likely your rights will be fully protected. You may have a soft-tissue injury that is worse than you expect, or you don’t know the full extent of your injury until several days following the crash. If you accept a settlement before you know the true extent of your injury, you can’t renegotiate. Refuse to be rushed. Finally, we do not recommend signing an authorization that allows the adjuster for the other company to obtain records from your doctor who is treating you following a crash – this potentially gives access to your entire medical history.
Remember, insurance companies are businesses. They stay in business by taking in more than they pay out. It’s in their best interest to get you to accept the lowest amount possible to settle your claim. Be prepared and do your homework before accepting any settlement. If you have any questions following a crash, please give one of our attorneys a call for a free consultation.
Identity theft is a big problem around the world. More and more people are becoming victims of unscrupulous individuals who will go to any length to steal our identity or violate our credit. The latest estimates indicate that 1 in 15 Americans will be the victim of some form of identity theft this year. Despite increased safeguards, the number of victims continues to grow. Nonetheless, reasonable precautions will help protect you from becoming a victim. Here is a list of tips to help protect your identity.
1. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put "PHOTO ID REQUIRED." This will help prevent crooks from actually using your stolen card and limit your liability if a vendor takes the card without checking the signature.
2. When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the "For" line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check processing channels won't have access to it.
3. Put your work phone # on your checks instead of your home Phone. If you have a PO Box, use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO Box, use your work address. Never have your SS# printed on your checks. You can add it if it is necessary. But if you have it printed, anyone can get it.
6. Monitor all your account statements promptly, and if you bank on line, check your accounts regularly. Be careful in selecting your account passwords. Avoid pet names or nick names or anything you refer to on any social media sites. Most experts recommend that your password contain 8-10 characters combining both numbers and letters.
7. Finally, call the three national credit reporting organizations Immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and also call the Social Security fraud line number. If you do this, any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.
In addition to the numbers you need to call to cancel your credit cards, here are the numbers you need to call if your personal information has been stolen:
1.) Equifax: 800-525-6285