Sonsire Becomes Lifetime Member Of Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum

Christina Sonsire of Ziff Law FirmAttorney Christina Sonsire of the Ziff Law Firm has been certified as a lifetime member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

MMDAF_144_white gifChristina was first accepted as a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum in 2013.

Membership in the forums is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts, awards and settlements. Fewer than 1 percent of U.S. lawyers are members, according to the forums.

“Judges and lawyers from other parts of New York state often assume big results only happen in big cities,” said Christina, a partner in Ziff Law and a medical malpractice lawyer for eight years. “It is reassuring to know we are able to help our clients receive every penny of compensation they deserve, regardless of where the case is located.”

Christina is only the third attorney in the Twin Tiers ever to be named a Multi-Million Dollar Advocate, joining me — Ziff Law managing partner Jim Reed — as part of the exclusive group.

Jim Reed is managing partner of the Ziff Law Firm.

Jim Reed is managing partner of the Ziff Law Firm.

I am proud that Christina has been accepted into this forum. The fact that two lawyers from our firm have earned the right to be called Multi-Million Dollar Advocates speaks volumes about our firm and the services we are able to provide to our clients. Our goal is to continue the Ziff Law legacy of achieving big-city results for the people we proudly represent.

Membership in the forums recognizes excellence in advocacy, and provides members with a national network of experienced colleagues for professional referral and information exchange.

Members of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum must have acted as principal counsel in at least one case in which their client received a verdict, award or settlement in the amount of $2 million or more.

To learn more about the forums, go to www.milliondollaradvocates.com.

Thanks for reading and congratulations Christina!

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

Christina Sonsire Is First Women’s Soccer Player Selected For Georgetown Hall Of Fame

Christina Bruner, a standout striker and midfielder for the Georgetown University women’s soccer team from 1994 to 1997, will be the first women’s soccer player inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame in February.

Christina Bruner Sonsire, a standout striker and midfielder for the Georgetown University women’s soccer team from 1994 to 1997, will be the first women’s soccer player inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame in February.

Christina Sonsire of the Ziff Law Firm has been named to the Georgetown University Hall of Fame, the first women’s soccer player selected for the honor by the Washington, D.C., university.

Christina Sonsire.

Christina Sonsire.

Christina, who was then Christina Bruner, was a gritty striker and midfielder for the Georgetown University women’s soccer team from 1994 to 1997 while she earned a bachelor’s degree in Classics and International Relations in 1998. The medical malpractice lawyer went on to earn a law degree at the University of Montana.

Christina, the soccer team captain and a four-year starter, graduated as the team’s all-time leader in goals, assists, and total points. She held those records until 2009 and is currently ranked sixth all-time in goals scored (26), sixth in assists (18) and sixth in points scored (70) at Georgetown.

“I am so proud to have been a part of this fantastic program,” Christina said. “It is one of the greatest honors of my life.”

Christina and seven other Hoya sports luminaries will be inducted on Feb. 11 into the Georgetown Athletic Hall of Fame during halftime of the Georgetown-Marquette University men’s basketball game at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. There is a black-tie reception for the inductees after the game on the Georgetown campus.

“I never imagined something like this would happen,” she said. “It feels like an honor not just for me, but for all of my Georgetown teammates and the things we accomplished on the field together. Having the chance to take my daughters (Laurel, 7, and Noelle, 4) to a ceremony like this is one of the greatest gifts I could ever imagine. Hopefully it is something they will always remember.”

Part of the Hall of Fame induction involves a trip to Washington this coming weekend (Dec. 2-4) to meet with other inductees and have dinner with the university athletic director.

Christina is thrilled not only about the weekend events, but also because she will be on campus while her former team competes in the NCAA Division 1 College Cup in San Jose, Calif. Georgetown plays the University of Southern California in a national semifinal at 7:30 p.m. EST Friday, which follows the West Virginia-North Carolina semifinal at 5 p.m. EST. The Division I championship game is at 6 p.m. EST Sunday.

“I am thrilled for all of the current players and coaching staff. Making it through to the Final Four is an amazing accomplishment,” she said. “It is going to be so exciting to be able to watch the games on campus with the current students, and be able to include my daughters in such a historic event.”

Christina has also been inducted into the Halls of Fame for Notre Dame High School, Chemung County, and Section 4 for her scoring prowess as a high school player. Christina was coached by Steve Weber at Notre Dame, who remains the girls soccer coach. She was the all-time leading scorer in the former Southern Tier Athletic Conference, and played in the Olympic Development Program as well as in the Empire State Games.

Christina has coached in the Chemung Valley Soccer Association and Soaring Capital Soccer Club, and currently coaches a 7-and-under Ziff Law team in CVSA. Daughter Laurel, 7, is following mom’s example, and daughter Noelle, 4, can’t wait to get started. For now, with children to raise with husband Damian Sonsire, she is happy to get her kicks as a coach. She has worked with a core of children for more than two years.

“There is no greater joy that watching these young players develop,” she said. “They have grown so much, not just as players but as teammates, competitors, and young people. Coaching is one of the things I enjoy doing most.”

Christina Sonsire now loves coach a youth soccer team that includes her daughter Laurel, 7.

Christina Sonsire now loves coaching a Ziff Law Firm youth soccer team that includes her daughter Laurel, 7.

Thanks for reading and congratulations Christina!

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

Upstate NY Law Firm Selected Among Best Law Firms In U.S. For Sixth Straight Year

Ziff Law attorneys, from left, Mike Brown, Christina Sonsire, Jim Reed, and Adam Gee.

Ziff Law attorneys, from left, Mike Brown, Christina Sonsire, Managing Partner Jim Reed, and Adam Gee.

For the sixth year in a row, the Ziff Law Firm is the only law firm in the Elmira, Corning, and Ithaca area named to a nationally recognized directory of top personal injury law firms in the United States.

Ziff Law was named a National Best Law Firm for 2017 in the practice area of Personal Injury Law for Plaintiffs by U.S. News – Best Lawyers.

I am so proud of the team we have assembled and the incredible results we have achieved. We have always believed that working hard and caring deeply about our clients would create good results, and it is so gratifying to see that we were correct. Winning this award once was great. Winning it six years in a row is amazing, and we could not be any happier.

Law firms were evaluated using client and peer reviews, and additional information provided by the firms, according to U.S. News – Best Lawyers, which ranked more than 10,000 law firms in more than 100 practice areas.

The rankings were announced this month by U.S. News & World Report, the parent company of U.S. News, and Best Lawyers, a national directory of top-rated attorneys that included Reed in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

To learn more about the Best Law Firms rankings, go to bestlawfirms.usnews.com.

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

ZiffLaw Welcomes Mike Brown, New Injury And Malpractice Attorney

The Ziff Law Firm welcomes Mike Brown.

The Ziff Law Firm is pleased to announce the expansion of its personal injury and medical malpractice law practice with the addition of a fourth lawyer, Mike Brown.

Mike, 29, a former Assistant District Attorney in the Broome County District Attorney’s Office who was working in the New York Attorney General’s Office in Binghamton, joins Ziff Law attorneys Jim Reed, Christina Sonsire, and Adam Gee.

Mike’s resume was academically and professionally outstanding, and his three interviews were excellent. We truly believe Mike is a good fit for our firm, and we look forward to working with him.

Mike, a 2012 graduate of the Syracuse University College of Law, was admitted to the bar in 2013. He was an Assistant District Attorney in the Broome County DA’s Office from May 2013 to September 2015 and joined the AG’s office in September 2015.

“I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to benefit from the Ziff Law attorneys’ many years of experience,” Mike said. “The law firm has a great reputation and it is apparent to me that they do things the right way.”

In the DA’s office, Mike handled all aspects of criminal litigation, including many jury and bench trials. Some of his cases, such as assault, driving while intoxicated, and other traffic-related violations, had personal injury components, he said.

In the AG’s office, Mike worked in the Claims Bureau, defending the state in the Court of Claims against medical malpractice, slip and fall, and other negligence claims, he said.

Every lawyer I spoke with about Mike said the same thing: he is hard-working, smart, and tough.

Mike was an outfielder for the NCAA Division 1 Le Moyne College baseball team for four years, and one of his great catches was an ESPN Play of the Day,

I think that catch says a lot about who Mike is. It takes an enormous amount of hard work and discipline to play Division I baseball, and real courage and confidence to make a catch like that. I am confident he will bring those qualities to the Ziff Law Firm.

The chemistry of the people working in the law firm is important. Our office has great chemistry, and one of my biggest concerns in adding another lawyer was whether a new lawyer would fit in. That’s why we conducted three interviews and spent so much time talking with lawyers who worked with Mike. I am confident that with Mike, we succeeded in hiring a lawyer who will make our chemistry even better.

 

■ To contact Mike Brown, call 607-733-8866 or send an email to [email protected].

Education:

Vestal High School, 2005.
Le Moyne College, Syracuse, Bachelor’s degree in Management and Leadership, 2009.
Syracuse University College of Law, Juris Doctor Cum Laude, 2012.

Family:

Wife Courtney, daughter Everly Mae, born Dec. 18, 2015. He comes from a medical family: his father and two or his brothers are medical doctors, his wife is a nurse, and his mother was a nurse before she started raising her four sons.

Notable:

Mike is an avid outdoorsman. At Le Moyne, he was an outfielder with the NCAA Division I Varsity Baseball team all four years.


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

 

 


Jim Reed Named Among Best Lawyers in U.S. for Sixth Year In A Row

Jim Reed is managing partner of the Ziff Law Firm.

Jim Reed is Managing Partner of the Ziff Law Firm.

Jim Reed, Managing Partner of the Ziff Law Firm in Elmira, has been selected by his peers as a “Best Lawyer in America” in a national directory of top-rated attorneys for the sixth year in a row.

Jim, selected as a Best Lawyer in Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice law, was named to the 2017 Best Lawyers in America guide following a survey of lawyers in his geographical region and areas of practice. Reed 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 handled many multi-million dollar cases. His practice handles serious personal injury, bicycle accident and medical malpractice cases in NY and PA.

Jim’s leadership, experience and hard work have helped to made this the best year ever at the Ziff Law Firm, with multi-million dollar recoveries on behalf of our injured clients.

His 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.

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 during WETM’s noon newscast to discuss legal issues in the news.

Thank you 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]

 

 


Ziff Law Lawyers Fighting In Albany For NY Families

 

tort reform art

Christina Sonsire and Adam Gee of the Ziff Law Firm recently went to Albany to fight for grieving families in New York State – like Craig and Melissa Storms, who lost their 2-year-old son in a hospital emergency room.

“Knowing that the same family could recover if they lived just across the border in Pennsylvania due to its strong wrongful death laws makes it even tougher for us to deal with families in New York,” said Adam Gee.

“Knowing that the same family could recover if they lived just across the border in Pennsylvania due to its strong wrongful death laws makes it even tougher for us to deal with families in New York,” said Adam Gee.

Christina and Adam lobbied with other members of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association in the New York State Legislature to fight for reforming New York’s 153-year-old wrongful death law, something the lawyers at Ziff Law have been doing for nearly a decade.

“We have been to Albany numerous times to fight for justice for those who lose a loved one due to negligence. It’s one battle we will never stop waging until the laws in New York finally improve,” Christina said.

Under the present wrongful death statute in New York, the assessment of damages is based almost exclusively on expected future income, something that is very biased toward the state’s highest-earning residents. Worse, New York is one of only seven states that do not compensate family members for their grief and sorrow.

“The reality is that New York law discriminates against people who are very young, retired or out of the work force, such as stay-at-home parents or people with disabilities,” said Christina Sonsire. “The families of people who are not actively engaged in the work force have little to no claim for wrongful death in New York.”

“The reality is that New York law discriminates against people who are very young, retired or out of the work force, such as stay-at-home parents or people with disabilities,” said Christina Sonsire. “The families of people who are not actively engaged in the work force have little to no claim for wrongful death in New York.”

“The reality is that New York law discriminates against people who are very young, retired or out of the work force, such as stay-at-home parents or people with disabilities,” Christina said. “The families of people who are not actively engaged in the work force have little to no claim for wrongful death in New York.”

Having to tell a family that we cannot take a case because their loved one’s life is worthless in the eyes of New York State law is a very difficult thing to do, Adam said. “Knowing that the same family could recover if they lived just across the border in Pennsylvania due to its strong wrongful death laws makes it even tougher for us to deal with families in New York.”

The tragic case of 2-year-old Zachary Storms highlights the discriminatory nature of New York’s wrongful death law.

Zachary’s story is heartbreaking.

Craig and Melissa Storms rushed their child to a hospital emergency room because they feared he may have ingested some red and blue dye from a child’s chemistry set.

They did all the right things. They consulted with the American Association of Poison Control Centers, which recommended, to be safe, that they take the child to a local hospital for precautionary treatment.

Things turned nightmarish quickly.

The Poison Control Centers urged “observe-only” to the hospital, but instead, the doctor forced young Zachary to drink an activated charcoal solution. He vomited and refused to drink more and the hospital put a gastrointestinal tube down his throat and poured so much liquid that it filled his throat, stomach, and lungs, killing him almost instantly.

“He was running around the emergency room, playing. Then he was dead,” said Melissa Storms.

“This is about justice and holding the people who caused his death accountable,” said Craig Storms.

However, New York’s wrongful death law only values financial loss, not human loss. A toddler, Zachary clearly was not earning any income, and his young age made it too speculative to project what he would make in the future. Therefore, under New York’s current wrongful death law, Zachary’s life was worthless.

When Congress established the Sept. 11th Victim Compensation Fund, it circumvented the law so surviving victims and victims’ families could be properly compensated. “Congress understood New York’s law is antiquated, and doing something like denying compensation to the parents whose children died that day was just wrong,” said Christina.

It’s time for New York State to do the same and take a giant step toward civil justice reform.

The lawyers at the Ziff Law Firm will not stop fighting for families until New York State changes this law.

Contact your local state representative and tell them about Zachary and why it’s important to modernize the state’s wrongful death 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

 


Is Your Surgeon Operating On A Second Patient At The Same Time?

surgery photo

Here is a new practice that Twin Tiers residents should remember when they, their family or their friends are facing medical procedures in a local hospital: concurrent surgery.

Last fall the Boston Globe newspaper reported Massachusetts General Hospital has surgeons who are performing surgery in two operating rooms at the same time. It’s called double-booking.

mass-generalDouble booking is a very controversial and risky procedure that is apparently an open secret in hospitals. But patients are rarely told. The surgeon responsible for the patient relies on a general surgeon or surgeon-in-training as he or she goes from room to room, performing multiple operations at the same time.

There is a lot of disagreement in the medical community over both the ethics and safety of double-booking. Let’s face it – it’s clearly done to make money and get as many patients through operating rooms in the shortest amount of time possible.

As the Boston Globe reports: Hospitals that permit double-booking consider it an efficient way to deploy the talents of their most in-demand specialists while reducing wasted operating room time. For patients, however, it can come as an unsettling surprise — especially when things go wrong.

At the very least, patients have the right to informed consent. In other words, patients must be informed their surgery has been double-booked so that they can make an informed decision as to whether they want to allow it.

It should be very interesting to see what transpires.

Thank you for reading!

Christina Sonsire
[email protected]

 

 


Doctors Struggle To Curb Patients Who Pose Serious Danger To Other Drivers On The Road, Says NY and PA Medical Malpractice Lawyer

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Doctors face a daunting challenge when they are treating a patient who is impaired or has a disability that makes that patient an unsafe driver.

the-information-age-has-enabled-doctors-to-view-patient-data-on-laptops-_1508_608708_0_14091474_500Many doctors will want to get the patients’ keys away from them quickly and without incident, but they have to take great care not to breach that patient’s confidentiality.

Doctors shouldn’t notify the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles without talking with the patient, and with the patient’s permission, notify their family and the DMV, unless the patient has already done so.

Those are some of the key conclusions discussed in a story in the Spring 2016 Dateline newsletter published by the Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Co.

According to Donnaline Richmond, counsel to the company, doctors need to document every step they take to protect themselves and their employer.

Doctors know patients will rarely do what’s required and report a disabling condition to the DMV, Richmond said. So doctors need to inform and warn patients of the risk of their medical condition – and fully document those warnings.

According to Richmond, among the steps doctors should document:

  • How medication or a medical condition make it unsafe for the patient to drive.
  • All attempts to communicate doctors’ concerns to the patients and their families, and their attempts to gain consent from patients.
  • All DMV paperwork completed for the patient, once the doctor has the patient’s written authorization.
  • All phone records from calls to patients and their family members regarding the patients’ inability to drive.
  • Patients’ written authorization to release medical information.
  • Reports to the Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, if it applies.

Thanks for reading.

Christina Sonsire
[email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


$9.15 Million: ‘Big City Results’ For Ziff Law Lawyers

depuy-hip-recalled

The lawyers at the Ziff Law Firm live for our motto – “Local Lawyers, Big City Results!” – and recently delivered life-changing results for two Twin Tiers families.

Jim Reed.

Jim Reed.

In May, Jim Reed and Christina Sonsire earned settlements topping a total of $9 million in one week. We celebrate those awards at the Ziff Law Firm because justice was served for two families who have waited for justice for years.

“I think there is a perception that in cases where there are substantial damages, either serious injuries or wrongful death, people have to hire lawyers in bigger cities to get the best legal representation,” said Christina, a partner in Ziff Law and a medical malpractice attorney for eight years. “These cases show that we can bring about the best results possible here in Elmira. It feels good to know that Jim, Adam (Gee), and I can perform at the same level or better than attorneys in the region

Christina Sonsire.

Christina Sonsire.

or across the state.”

Jim and Christina can’t talk about the details of their settlements because they are bound by confidentiality agreements, but what’s important now is their clients can start to get on with their lives.

“The public needs to understand that these settlements are not just about big payouts – these are payments for something that has been taken away from our clients: a death that takes away a father, an injury that permanently disables someone so they can never work again,” said Jim, the law firm’s managing partner, who has been a personal injury and medical malpractice attorney for almost 30 years.

Christina’s case was settled for $6.9 million during a one-day, nine-hour mediation hearing with a former judge as mediator, following months of pretrial litigation, depositions and discovery.

Christina had hired a team of top medical experts to assist if the case went to trial, something she believes helped her achieve such a good result. “I was able to retain four of the best experts in the United States – perhaps even the world – in their respective fields, and had discussed the case with a fifth, whom I likely would have called if the matter went to trial.”

According to Christina, the quality of the expert witnesses can make a big difference in getting cases resolved. “When the other side knows you are prepared and ready to present a strong case, the likelihood of settling a case for good value goes way, way up.”

At the mediation, Christina and the defense attorney set up in separate rooms and the mediator guided them to the settlement. “The mediator’s job is to go from room to room with information and try to resolve our differences,” she said. “We were successful in our negotiations.”

Sometimes, such as in this case, defendants require confidentiality as terms of the settlement, she said. “The nature of the damages necessitated that we settle the case for the most money we could achieve because of the seriousness of the damages. We did not want confidentiality to become a sticking point that prevented a successful negotiation. Therefore, agreeing to it was the right decision.”

Jim’s $2.25 million settlement in a fatal car accident case was reached after protracted settlement negotiations, he said. The settlements are a reminder of what is lost on a personal level in personal injury and medical malpractice cases.

“This is not about ‘winning the lottery’ because nobody wins when people have been killed or disabled,” he said. “Every one of my clients would gladly trade their settlement money for the ability to go back to a time before they were injured or a loved one was hurt or killed. Our clients have suffered profound losses and these settlements are an imperfect way to try to make the best of very bad situations.”

Jim takes pride in learning while preparing every case because it makes him a better lawyer. “I worked with a nationally recognized trauma surgeon in this case, and under New York state’s archaic wrongful death law, the information I learned assisted in greatly enhancing the value of my client’s case.”

The hard work by the Ziff Law team resulted in settlements that will help people in great need, Christina said.

“We were able to bring the cases to successful outcomes and that’s what this is really all about,” she said. “We did everything we could to right some really bad wrongs.”

Jim said the settlements show that Ziff Law lawyers are among the best in the state. “Two settlements totaling over $9 million in one week is something I thought I would never see from a small Elmira firm,” he said. “Frankly, that would be a phenomenal result for a huge firm in a big city, so it confirms for me that we have achieved my goal of becoming David and Goliath – a small firm capable of big results! Insurance carriers know the lawyers who are capable of the biggest results, so this achievement will be a powerful benefit to our current and future clients.”

Thank you 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]

 

 

 


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]