Feds Put Pressure On Doctors, Hospitals To Make It Easier For Patients To Receive Their Medical Records

the-information-age-has-enabled-doctors-to-view-patient-data-on-laptops-_1508_608708_0_14091474_500

The Obama administration is knocking down the obstacles that Americans face when requesting their own medical records, which will be a big boost in prosecuting medical malpractice cases.

The federal government told doctors and hospitals that in most cases they must provide copies of these records within 30 days of receiving a request. Patients have been able to obtain copies of their records for a long time, but millions of people have complained to federal officials that they were thwarted in trying to exercise that right.

doctor-with-clipboardIn the new guidelines, which were announced recently, patients will not be required to state a reason for requesting their records, and doctors and hospitals cannot deny access out of concern that patients might be upset by the information.

“Based on recent studies and our own enforcement experience, far too often individuals face obstacles to accessing their health information,” said Jocelyn Samuels, the director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, which enforces federal health privacy standards, in The New York Times. “This must change.”

According to the Times, under the new guidelines, a health care provider cannot require patients to pick up their records in person if they ask that the records be sent by mail or email. A health care provider cannot deny a request for access to health information because a patient has failed to pay medical bills. A doctor or a hospital may charge a fee to cover the cost of copying, but cannot charge for the cost of searching for data and retrieving it.

The rules were issued under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Doctors and hospitals are supposed to provide consumers with access to personal health information within 30 days and, in some cases, can extend the deadline by 30 days. But most requests should be fulfilled in fewer than 30 days, the government said.

Unfortunately, I see this issue firsthand far too often. Many times, people attempt to get their medical records before calling a lawyer. Although this should be a good way to see what the records say quickly, they are often faced with delays of weeks — or even months — before their requests are honored.

Hopefully, these new guidelines will help, though time will only tell whether they can begin to remedy what appears to be a deep and systemic problem.

 

To read more about your rights, click here.

 

A summary of important changes:

Some of the ways in which the new guidance should make it easier for patients include:

  • Doctors and hospitals are not allowed to ask you why you want your records. If you happen to volunteer your reason for requesting your records, they cannot deny you access to your records based on your reason for wanting them.
  • Your doctor or hospital cannot require you to go to the office of facility in person if you request that they mail your records to you.
  • Nor can they require you to use a web portal to request access to your records, because there are still people who do not have internet access.
  • They must provide your records within 30 days. That’s calendar days, not business days. Under certain circumstances, that time limit can be extended by up to 30 days, but you must be notified of the extension within the first 30-day time period.
  • You can be charged a fee for the cost of making paper or electronic copies and postage, but not fees for searching for your records, storage, or retrieval. This applies even if your state laws allow the extra charges.

 

Thanks for reading,

Christina Sonsire

[email protected]

 


Hospital Horror: Nurse Clips Off Seriously Ill Infant’s Toe

A couple in New Mexico fighting to save their premature son’s life were horrified to learn that in December a nurse accidentally clipped off the infant’s left pinky toe while cutting away tape that was used to hold an IV in place.

“I don’t think that should have even happened,” Erica Hogue told TV station KOB 4. “It just makes me angry that something like this could happen.”

According to KOB 4, Erica gave birth to twin sons Davante and Delante in an emergency cesarean section at just 29 weeks last June at UNM Hospital in Farmington, N.M.

The 8-month-old boys have struggled to survive, but Delante recovered and is home with his family while Davante has fought to survive a brain bleed and much more. He has continuous intubation and a tracheotomy, had g-tube surgery and has a hole in his heart. All of these complications have weakened the infant.

She said the hospital said because of the brain bleed, he may never walk, talk, see or hear.

“They (the hospital) told us they could let him go because he got a stage-3 brain bleed,” Hogue said.

But Hogue and her husband made the decision to continue to fight for him. “We were going to take our son whatever way he came to us.”

An orthopedic surgeon stitched around his toe and placed him in a leg cast, she said, but circulation could not be returned and the toe was lost.
Hogue said she was told that the hospital investigated the incident.

“The only thing that they could do is use a different tape,” Hogue said.

She also said the hospital apologized.

“For me, that is just not enough. I believe that my baby is worth so much more than that,” she said.

UNM Hospital declined to comment, but Hogue said she and her husband are considering legal action in the future.

“Our priority is getting our son home where he belongs,” Hogue said.

Thanks for reading.

Christina Sonsire

[email protected]


Twin Tiers Drivers, Have You Heard Of The “Move Over” Law?

move-over-law

I recently received a message from a Twin Tiers resident after a friend of hers received a $300 ticket on a New York State highway for allegedly violating the state’s “Move Over” law.

The woman said her friend slowed down as she passed a police car, which was stopped with flashing lights. The officer was helping a motorist with a disabled vehicle.

Shortly after that, an officer pulled over her friend and informed her about the law and told her she always needs to slow down AND move to the passing lane. The woman who wrote the note to me said she had never heard of the law, and neither had any of her friends.

She suggested I warn our blog readers, and I thought that was a great idea!

I hope this story opens the eyes of many Twin Tiers drivers who were not aware of the law, and serves as a stark reminder to those who have heard of the law but did not know the specifics.

The Ambrose-Searles Move Over Law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2011, is named in honor of New York State Trooper Robert W. Ambrose and Onondaga County Deputy Sheriff Glenn Matthew Searles, who were killed by vehicles while helping motorists. The law is designed to protect law enforcement and emergency workers.

In 2012, the law was amended to include tow and service-vehicle operators.

When approaching these vehicles that are stopped, parked or standing on the shoulder, drivers are required to:

  • Reduce speed.

  • Move to an open lane (unless they cannot do so safely).

Read the full text of the law here.

The penalties are stiff:

It’s a moving violation and three points on your license. (It was two points in 2011, but increased to three points when the law was revised in 2012.)

The fine is $275 PLUS a state surcharge (tax).

If you have two violations of this law in an 18-month period, the state DMV slaps you with a Driver Assessment Fee, which STARTS at $300 and could go up from there.

So the next time you approach an emergency vehicle or service vehicles helping motorists, SLOW DOWN AND TRY TO GET OVER INTO THE NEXT LANE.

If it’s not possible to get over, give them as much room as you can and go slowly.

 

Thanks for reading, and take it slow out there!

Jim

___________________________________

James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 

 


Ithaca Surgeon Faces 12th Malpractice Lawsuit Since 1996!

 

Dr. David Schwed

Dr. David Schwed

The Ithaca Voice newspaper has just uncovered some startling information about an Ithaca-area surgeon: The doctor has been sued for malpractice 12 times in Tompkins County Court since 1996, according to records reviewed by reporter Jeff Stein.

cayuga logoThe latest lawsuit, filed Oct. 22, shows that Dr. David Schwed was sued in late October by Donna Diconstanzo for complications related to a laparoscopic colectomy, which involves the removal of a portion of the large intestine, according to Stein.

The lawsuit states that Schwed performed a laparoscopy on DiCostanzo that “resulted in significant disfigurement, scarring and the removal of covering up of her belly button.”

The lawsuit also notes that the Cayuga Medical Center website states: “At Cayuga Medical Center, we want your surgical experience to be as safe, comfortable and stress-free as possible.”

This comes despite CMC’s awareness that “Dr. Schwed has numerous medical malpractice claims and a history of payments that establish that surgical experiences conducted by Dr. Schwed are not safe, comfortable, and stress-free as possible,” the lawsuit states.

This lawsuit is ongoing.

The Voice reported that Schwed has made four payments in civil litigation since 2009, two of which were for the above-average amount, according to state records.

Only 1 percent of doctors made four or more malpractice payouts in 15 years according to data from the 1990s and 2000s, said Public Citizen, a national consumer watchdog group.

At least three lawsuits are ongoing, raising at least the possibility of a fifth payout. Only 0.5 percent of doctors had five payouts or more in the 15-year period surveyed in the Public Citizen report.

The Cayuga Medical Center, where the surgery occurred, is named as a defendant in the October lawsuit, as is Surgical Associates of Ithaca.

Dr. Sidney Wolfe

Dr. Sidney Wolfe

Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen told The Voice that the number of Schwed’s malpractice payouts should raise concerns with state officials and the Cayuga Medical Center.

Schwed has faced no disciplinary action from state officials, according to records.

“It’s multiple payouts against someone, and the (state) medical board doesn’t seem to be doing anything,” said Wolfe, whose expertise on malpractice has been cited by CBS News, the New York Times and other national publications. “The question is, ‘Why haven’t they done anything?’”

Wolfe said it’s important for patients to be informed of the malpractice histories of their doctors.

“Letting people know about well-established facts about a doctor — including malpractice payouts … is part of a public health responsibility of a reporter,” Wolfe said.

“One might at least raise the question, ‘Would some of the people injured since then not been injured had the medical board acted on these four cases that are between 3 and 5 years old?’”

To see the history of civil litigation against Dr. Schwed, click here.

Thanks for reading!

Christina Sonsire
csonsire@zifflaw


Ziff Law’s Christina Sonsire Named Again To State Judicial Review Panel

For the second year in a row, Attorney Christina Sonsire of the Ziff Law Firm will play a prominent role in our state legal system!

Christina Sonsire.

Christina Sonsire.

Christina has been appointed to a panel of trial lawyers who will advise Gov. Andrew Cuomo on his selection of a new judge for the New York State Court of Appeals, the top court in the state.

Christina, a member of the board of directors of the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers, will join 13 other trial lawyers, all members of the academy, in interviewing the seven finalists on Friday in Albany.

Everyone at the law firm is proud of Christina and this amazing honor. Christina uses these meetings to grow as a lawyer so she can better serve her clients at Ziff Law.

Like last year, Christina is the ONLY trial lawyer on the panel chosen to represent the Elmira, Corning, Ithaca and Binghamton region. AND … It is the first time the academy has had an opportunity to advise the governor on the selection of a chief judge.

This year’s panel is important because the attorney selected will serve as the court’s chief judge, Christina said. The current chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, retires at the end of the year.

Cuomo asked the Academy and other state bar associations to screen the candidates and make a recommendation, said Christina, who was appointed to the panel by Academy Executive Director Michelle J. Stern.

Christina was selected because of her strong record as a plaintiffs’ attorney, primarily in medical malpractice cases. She has also lectured extensively across the state.

“Serving on this type of committee is an excellent opportunity to both help strengthen to New York’s top court as well as gain insight from some of the state’s top lawyers,” Christina said. “I was blown away by the caliber of attorneys we interviewed last year, and this this year’s candidates may be even more impressive. I am very thankful for the chance to participate and represent our area.”

The finalists include a former Manhattan U.S. attorney, the Westchester County district attorney and the state’s former chief administrative judge — the same position Lippman held before his appointment to the Court of Appeals.

The seven nominees:

Gail Prudenti, an experienced judge who retired as the chief administrative judge in July. Lippman was the chief administrative judge before his appointment as chief judge of the Court of Appeals.

Caitlin J. Halligan, the solicitor general under Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who later served as the chief counsel in the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Janet DiFiore, Westchester County district attorney.

Michael J. Garcia, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan from 2005 to 2008.

Carey R. Dunne, Rowan D. Wilson and Stephen P. Younger, Manhattan lawyers.

According to the New York Times, DiFiore, a former State Supreme Court justice in Westchester, and Prudenti, who presided over the appellate division in Brooklyn, are the only two nominees with experience on the bench.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

___________________________________

James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 

 


Ziff Law’s Christina Sonsire Named Rising Star For Third Year In A Row By Super Lawyers

Christina Sonsire.

Christina Sonsire has been named a Rising Star again for her trial work.

Christina Sonsire of the Ziff Law Firm has been recognized by a national rating service as a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” for the third year in a row for her work as a trial lawyer.

Super Lawyers, which evaluates top lawyers from more than 70 practice areas, honored Christina because she is an outstanding attorney 40 years old and younger who has been practicing law for fewer than 10 years, according to the rating service. Fewer than 2.5 percent of attorneys receive this recognition.

Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a multistep selection process that includes peer nominations, evaluations and independent research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual basis.

To learn more about Christina, click here.

We are so proud that Christina was again selected as a Rising Star because she is the first local lawyer ever selected for this great honor. Her selection confirms what we already knew: Christina continues to be considered one the finest young attorneys in New York state if not the entire country.

“I am really proud to be named a Rising Star,” said Christina, who primarily handles medical malpractice and catastrophic injury cases. “I love the kind of work that I do, and am so proud to be able to do it in my hometown with such a great law firm.”

Christina is a 1994 graduate of Elmira Notre Dame High School. She has a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a law degree from the University of Montana. Sonsire is on the board of directors of New York state’s Academy of Trial lawyers and frequently lectures across the state on topics related to injury and malpractice law.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

___________________________________

James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 


Ziff Law’s Jim Reed Again Named Among Best Lawyers In National Directory

Jim Reed, managing partner of the Ziff Law Firm,

Jim Reed, managing partner of the Ziff Law Firm,

Jim Reed, managing partner of the Ziff Law Firm in Elmira, has been selected by his peers to be featured in a national directory of top-rated attorneys for the fifth year in a row.

Adam Gee of the Ziff Law Firm.

Adam Gee of the Ziff Law Firm.

Jim, selected as a Best Lawyer in personal injury and medical malpractice law, was named to the 2016 Best Lawyers in America guide following a survey of lawyers in his geographical region and area of practice. Jim was first selected for the 2012 guide.

In September 2014, Jim was named the 2015 Plaintiffs’ Lawyer of the Year by the Best Lawyers in America guide among personal injury lawyers in the Southern New York Region, based on the recommendations of lawyers in Chemung, Steuben, Tompkins, Broome and Tioga, N.Y., counties.

Jim, who has been practicing law since 1986, has argued cases at every level in the New York State court system and has successfully managed many multi-million dollar cases. His practice handles serious personal injury and malpractice cases,

Jim is also the legal expert for WETM-TV in Elmira and appears in a segment called “Law Talk” at about 12:20 p.m. each Wednesday on WETM to discuss legal issues in the news.

Jim’s selection as a Best Lawyer shows that he has an excellent reputation in the Twin Tiers legal community, and a trial lawyer’s reputation means everything.

Every client should care about the reputation of their lawyer because it can influence the success or failure of their case. If you have a good reputation, as Jim does, opposing counsel and judges afford you courtesy and respect. They know that every case handled by a lawyer of Jim’s stature is a good case.

The American Lawyer, a magazine and website that reports news on the legal profession, describes the annual Best Lawyers guide as “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”

To read more about the Best Lawyers guide, click here,

Thanks for reading,

Adam
__________________________________________

Adam M. Gee, Esq.
NY and PA Injury and Malpractice Attorney
The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY  14901
Phone: (607)733-8866
Fax: (607)732-6062
Email: [email protected]

 


NY Medical Malpractice Lawyer Urges Albany To Change NY Medical Malpractice Law

medical-malpractice

New York State may soon offer new hope for medical patients with older malpractice claims who get locked out of the courthouse by the state’s short and unreasonable statute of limitations.  Currently, N.Y. is just one of six states still clinging to an old law that is grossly unfair to malpractice victims.  These states include Arkansas, S. Dakota and Idaho.

The law right now says the clock starts ticking on malpractice claims from the moment a medical error is made. People have 2.5 years to bring legal action from that moment. But for people who don’t discover the malpractice until after the 2.5 years, there is no legal remedy. The proposed new law, which would start the 2.5-year clock at the time of discovery, would be much better for residents and is LONG overdue.

Urge State Sen. Tom O'Mara to co-sponsor the new medical malpractice legislation.

Urge State Sen. Tom O’Mara to support the new medical malpractice legislation.

Let me use an example to illustrate the importance of the new law. Assume a woman had a mammogram three years ago that was incorrectly read and she is not told that the mammogram revealed breast cancer.

A repeat mammogram done today shows the breast cancer, which is now much bigger and the cancer has spread to other organs.  In reviewing the current mammogram, the doctor looks back at the mammogram that was done three years ago and realizes that a huge mistake was made and she should have been told she had a mass that could have been easily treated three years ago.

Under our current law, she would not be able to pursue legal action because the 2.5-year time limit for medical malpractice claims has already expired.

So there is new hope in Albany right now, but I need your help.

I urge Twin Tiers residents to support the state legislation, which passed the state Assembly and is now in the state Senate. New York is just one of six states that has the old law.

State Sen. Tom Libous, R-Binghamton, is the sponsor of this important bill and he is joined by 33 co-sponsors.   Our local state Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-Big Flats, has not become a co-sponsor.

I urge all Southern Tier residents to contact Sen. O’Mara’s office and ask him to support the new law. Gov. Cuomo has said he will sign it once it passes in the Senate.

Contact Sen. O’Mara’s office here.

Thanks for reading and helping to make a difference,

Jim

Today’s topic was discussed on the June 17 edition of Law Talk on WETM News at Noon. Catch us every Wednesday, talking about legal issues in the news, at about 12:20 p.m.

_________________________________

James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com


Nominate Your Hometown Hero Today!

Hero logo

The Ziff Law Firm is teaming up with the Elmira Pioneers again this summer to honor a Hometown Hero of the Game for each Pioneers home game from nominations provided by Twin Tiers residents.

Anyone who gives back to their community through their work, actions or volunteer efforts is eligible to become a Hometown Hero

Dunnfield1bigThose selected by the Ziff Law Firm as Hometown Heroes – and up to seven of their family members and friends – will be guests of the law firm at a Pioneers game at Dunn Field, where they will be seated in a specially designated box.

The Hometown Hero will be recognized during the game by the public-address announcer. The Ziff Law Firm first recognized Hometown Heroes during the 2012 season. About 100 Heroes were recognized in the first three seasons.

To nominate a Hometown Hero:

Online form: www.zifflaw.com/hero       

Email: [email protected]

Mail: 303 William St., Elmira, NY 14901             

Call: (607) 733-8866 or (800) 943-3529

The Elmira Pioneers play in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, a summer league with 10 teams from across New York state. The Pioneers’ season begins June 2 in Albany against the Dutchmen and the first home game is 7 p.m. June 5 against the Adirondack Trail Blazers at Dunn Field. The Pioneers have 25 home games in the regular season, which concludes July 30.

The Ziff Law Firm looks forward to turning the spotlight on people making a difference in our community, said attorney Adam Gee of the Ziff Law Firm

“Service to your community, whether through one’s occupation or volunteer work, is as American as baseball and apple pie, so we can’t imagine a better way to thank our Hometown Heroes,” Adam said. “The Ziff Law Firm feels privileged to sponsor this program and looks forward to meeting our heroes and sharing their stories.”

Elmira Pioneers’ co-owner Don Lewis said part of his dream with the purchase of the team was to give back to his community. “We are proud for our third year as owners to partner with the Ziff Law Firm in hosting the Hometown Heroes program at Historic Dunn Field.”

The Ziff Law Firm has saluted military veterans with its Veteran of the Game honor at each Elmira Jackals hockey game for the last six seasons at First Arena. In that time, almost 250 veterans have been applauded by Jackals fans for their service to our country

“Through our Veterans of the Game program with the Elmira Jackals, we have been so pleased to meet and honor local veterans and give them the recognition they deserve,” Adam said. “But veterans are not the only people in the community worthy of recognition

“There are everyday heroes in our midst, and these are the folks we’ll be recognizing this summer,” he said. “Our Hometown Heroes could be police officers or firefighters or other emergency workers, or they could be people doing other good work in the community.”

Thanks for reading!

Jim Reed, NY & PA Injury Lawyer
[email protected]

 

 


Ziff Law’s Adam Gee Rated Among The Top Trial Lawyers In The Country!

Adam Gee Smaller File size PhotoAttorney Adam Gee of the Ziff Law Firm is among the top trial lawyers in the country, as determined by the National Association of Distinguished Counsel (NADC).

Adam, was recently named a member of the Nation’s Top One Percent for 2015 by the NADC. He was selected by an independent panel of attorneys and approved by an NADC review board because of his high legal standards.

Once candidates are nominated, NADC researchers study their background and performance and pass on their recommendations to the panel for review. The panel makes its selections for a board of former judges to review and approve.

Adam devotes his practice to representing people injured through the actions of others and medical malpractice. A motorcycle rider himself, Adam represents many bikers injured by careless drivers. Adam has been an attorney for 18 years and has been with Ziff Law since 2004.

“As one of the hardest-working and most fearless trial lawyers I know, it came as no surprise to me that the NADC honored Adam as being among the top 1 percent of trial lawyers in the country!” said Ziff Law managing partner Jim Reed.

NADC_logo_200“I am humbled to be recognized by such a prestigious organization as the NADC,” Adam said. “I work as hard as I can for every client because I know that their ability to put their life back together may depend on successful I am in obtaining a recovery for them. To have my effort and results recognized by a national review board of my peers is extremely gratifying.

To learn more about NADC, go here.