Another year in the Florida Legislature, another strike against people trying to be made whole if they’re injured or harmed by a corporation. The latest example came this spring with changes to medical malpractice laws, documented in report in the Tampa Tribune. These are changes our St. Petersburg medical malpractice attorneys say further tilt the playing field against the patient. The most egregious element allows any health care provider called as a witness to breach patient confidentiality and discuss the patient’s private medical history without the consent of the patient.
That’s a blatant violation of the federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HiPAA), which restricts the personal health information that can be shared without the patient’s approval. There are strict penalties outlined if anyone – and doctor, nurse or any non-clinical health care employee – violates this law and searches for or shares confidential health information. The laws are specific and penalties sever for a reason. Yet this law take a step backward in protecting personal health information.
The change applies to the information gathering period before a lawsuit is filed, which doesn’t sound like that big of a deal. The lawsuit is the important part right? So if the rules about who attorneys can speak with during the suit are still the same, what is the harm in changing the rules?
The harm is most medical malpractice claims require 90 day notice of filing a suit. That means, Tampa Bay Personal Injury Attorneys must put the doctor or medical facility on notice that a lawsuit could be filed. That gives the potential defendants three months to investigate the claim and either deny it, make a settlement offer or admit responsibility and request arbitration. Those 90 days are crucial, and, are clearly just an extension of the lawsuit. To loosen the rules and give the doctors a green light to discuss the medical history of someone who may be taking them to court is clearly another advantage for the defense. Not to mention, if this step is allowed, where will the expansion lead next? Allowing depositions without a plaintiff’s attorney present?
Florida legislators vote to let doctors share your medical information
Florida is one of only three states in the country, the newspaper reported, that has gone to such drastic measures to restrict the rights of plaintiffs in Personal Injury cases. Supporters of the change say the patient is making their own medical condition the issue, so doctors should be able to discuss it. That argument rings hollow. It’s not the patient that makes the error leading to an injury. It’s not the patient who asks to come out of the hospital with more problems than he or she went in with. For defense attorneys to put their hands in the air and say “You’re the one that brought it up,” is a disingenuous attempt to shift the focus of the spotlight from the medical error to the integrity of the patient.
Similar legislative changes in Florida and other states are generally challenged and tied up for a period of time while the courts sort through them. Our Tampa Bay Personal Injury Attorneys would expect this provision to be challenged as well, and rightfully so.
If you think you or a loved one may have a potential personal injury claim in the Tampa Bay area, call Emerson Straw PL. at 877-428-4177 or set up an appointment for a free consultation with our St. Petersburg injury attorneys.