My Lawyer Got me $$$$

By now you have surely seen the billboards and television ads of  some law firms showing folks who claim to be clients proclaiming, “My lawyer got me (insert large $ number).”  Have you wondered why you hadn’t seen these types of ads in years past?  Here’s the rest of the story for you.

Before January 2013, client testimonials were not permitted by the Florida Supreme Court’s rules on attorney advertising.  The reasoning prohibiting such testimonials is obvious.  One client’s result does not by any means guarantee similar results for other clients.  All cases stand alone and are unique.

But in January of this year, the Supreme Court of Florida issued a new opinion revamping the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar and established an entirely different set of new rules on permissible advertising by attorneys in Florida.  Rule 4-7.13 says “client testimonials” are deceptive and inherently misleading unless:

1. The client makes a testimonial the client is qualified to to evaluate;

2. The testimonial is the client’s actual experience;

3. The testimonial is what clients of that law firm generally experience;

4. The testimonial was not drafted or written by the lawyer;

5. The client has not been given something of value in exchange for the testimonial;

6. The testimonial includes a disclaimer that prospective clients “may not obtain the same or similar results”.

Now, do you think all the “client testimonials” you see on billboards and on television meet each and every one of those criteria?  If you don’t, then you must conclude the ads are deceptive and misleading gimmicks designed to lure you into hiring a particular lawyer.

What’s more, these advertisements are offensive because they depict folks who don’t appear to be suffering at all, with huge smiles, holding bags of money, and shouting from the mountain top gleefully how much their lawyer got them.  The implication is their lawyer, by hook or crook, got some money for them from a minor accident.  That’s not our experience with our clients.  Our clients would gladly give their settlement or verdict money back, if they could turn back the clock and never have been harmed.  The money they finally get from their lawsuit is a poor exchange for a body part or function, a life altering injury, or a lost loved one.  Moreover, lawsuits are no fun.  Each injured victim and their friends and family are put under a microscope, their lives made an open book, and no stone unturned on their past medical and personal history.  They have to be examined by a doctor chosen by the defendant they are suing.  They have to sit for endless “deposition” testimony long before trial and all their medical and personnel records are subpoenaed by the defendant and poured over to find the slightest arguably derogatory information to use to cast the injury victim in a bad light.

And, these boorish advertisements add insult to our clients’ injuries.  The moment a jury walks into the courtroom and is told the case they are about to decide is an injury case, many instinctively think of these offensive billboards and television advertisements and automatically view the injured party and their lawyer in the courtroom as scam artists out to win the Great American Lawsuit Lottery.  So, we dislike these advertisements more than anyone.  We resent the ads because they are disrespectful to real injury victims who deserve and have the right to seek justice in the courtroom when those responsible for their injuries won’t accept responsibility.

Don’t tar all injury victims and their attorneys with the same brush.  Given the choice, most injury victims would forgo money rather than suffer for a lifetime, and all of them find the money a poor substitute for good health.

Courtesy Melvin Wright, esq.

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YOU’VE RECEIVED A COMPLAINT FROM DOH; NOW WHAT?

In Florida, the practice of medicine is intertwined with two vast areas of law: civil and administrative.  A physician alleged to have fallen below the standard of care by a patient and their attorney will find themselves the object of a civil suit.  Alternatively, a physician in violation of the Professional or Medical Practice Acts of Florida (Fl. Stats. 456 et seq and 458 et seq) will now face a complaint from the State of Florida through the powers granted to the Department of Health (hereinafter DOH) and its subservient Board of Medicine. This discussion will be a broad overview of DOH complaints and the potential discipline a physician could face for a proven violation and final order. My sincere wish is that any physician receiving a DOH complaint seeks professional counsel given the potential gravity of an unassisted outcome.

A DOH complaint generally starts with a patient or allied worker’s complaint (by letter or online) sent to DOH alleging a failure by the physician to obey a portion of the Acts.  For example, failure to render medical records to subsequent treating physicians, sexual harassment, abusive billing practices, disruptive behavior, unsympathetic delivery of care, and suspected drug or alcohol use to name a few.  The Board of Medicine may also initiate a complaint of its own accord (sua sponte) as when a physician with an out-of-state medical license is disciplined by the foreign state or has denial of a license application and the physician fails to report said instance within 30 days to the Florida Board. Fl. Stats. § 458.331(1) (kk).  Board actions following due process stretch from dismissal of the complaint up to permanent loss of license to practice medicine in the State of Florida.

A complaint will arrive at the address you have on file as your principal place of business by certified mail. The letter will outline the complaint against you, who made the complaint and a copy of the complaint along with the alleged statutory violations.  You will have 20 calendar days to respond in writing to the Investigational Services Unit in Tampa who are charged with contacting you and gathering all the pertinent documents necessary to make a file which is then sent to the Prosecution Services Unit in Tallahassee for review and determination of probable cause to proceed or not. It follows, therefore, that the initial response to your received complaint is very important to preserve your rights and to seek a dismissal where rational.

Here are a few guidelines you should be aware of:

  1. You must respond in 20 days or possibly be barred from making any further entries into your file
  2. You have the right to see a complete copy of your file including outside reports you may not have been aware of—-but you must request it.
  3. A state investigator may visit you at your office seeking information about your file and complaint.  You should refuse to answer any of their questions. They are not there to help you.  You are not obligated nor required to answer any questions no matter how authoritarian the investigator comes across. The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution protects you. Do not be deceived that by answering their questions the complaint will melt away under the weight of your reasonable explanations. Be polite but firm and refer all questions to your attorney.
  4. Remember, your license and possibly your livelihood are directly in the State’s crosshairs.
  5. Keep good written records of what you do, avoid conflict with patients and hospital staff, control your anger (difficult in today’s healthcare climate), and do what you’ve been trained to do——take care of your patients professionally.

Finally, give serious consideration to associating an attorney early on to protect your rights, your reputation, your license to practice and potentially your livelihood. You worked hard to get where you are. I know, so did I.

Dr. Fried, a retired surgeon, is an attorney with the Blanchard Law Firm of Ocala.

 

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Ocala personal injury-meningitis

As a personal injury law firm with its main office in Ocala, Florida, we have received numerous inquiries about the recent outbreaks of Fungal Meningitis. The majority of such cases in Florida occurred here in Marion County.   While this issue is under scrutiny from various health organizations.it is extremely important that anyone who has received a pain medication by injection (or numerous other types of injections)  in the last 3 months be very vigilant about any symptoms that could be related to this contamination and seek immediate medical help.

We at Blanchard,Merriam,Adel and Kirkland PA are already working on the investigation of this issue for several clients and will continue to post new information as it becomes available.

Several lawsuits have already been filed and we are working with the attorneys on many of them to insure the complete protection of our client’s legal rights.

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Personal Injury and Social Media

Having represented hundreds of persons who have suffered a personal injury from many different causes—automobile accidents,medical malpractice, drug interaction, products liability etc., we have become aware that social media—Facebooks, Myspace, twitter, may have a very real and unintended effect upon our client’s claims.

These social media sources are being used to gather information about injured persons which is then used against them.  Most people use these services as a fun going means of  communicating good things about their lives—Most people do not elaborate on the pains and problems that they may be experiencing from a personal injury.  Such communications would not be interesting to our friends and would make one seem like a complainer.  Thus a defendant or his or her insurance company may take this information out of context to make it seem that a person who is injured could not be this cheerful and that if they were injured they surely would be mentioning it to their friends.  We encourage all of our clients to be very careful about the contents of any postings and to be very aware that their just claims for personal injury may be adversely impacted by anything on any social media…

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Automated Collection Calls

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) is a federal law which restricts the use of automated equipment to dial cellular telephones.  It is unlawful to use any automatic telephone dialing system or pre-recorded voice mail to make any call to a cellular telephone or any other service for which the party called is charged for the call.

Some debt collection agencies use predictive dialers which place calls without human involvement until a connection is made, and then attempt to connect the recipient with a debt collector.  Some debt collection agencies are also violating the TCPA by trying to collect debts which have been “charged off” by the original creditor.

If you have received a robo-call or a pre-recorded call on your cell phone, or need more information, fill free to make an appointment to discuss this with Lauren Merriam.

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Recent Legal Change Increases Surviving Spouses Intestate Share

A new Florida law states that in the absence of a will, if a decedent’s descendants are also the descendants of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse receives the entire estate if the surviving spouse has no other descendants. If the surviving spouse has at least one descendant who is not also a descendant of the decedent, the surviving spouse receives 50% of the estate.

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“Tort Reform”

As the political debate heats up we are likely once again to hear demands for “tort reform”  If this meant that personal injury accident victims would be entitled to just compensation only if they were truly injured and the other person was truly responsible—who could oppose it.  This is not what it means.  It means placing arbitrary and an unreasonable obstacles in the path of the unfortunate victims of injury caused by others.

We have represented persons injured in many different types of situations and each is unique as are each of our clients.  Our personal injury clients come from all over the state and nation but primarily from Marion,Citrus,Lake, Sumter and Alachua counties.  Often times when an injured client first comes to us they too have the mistaken impression—gleamed from the propaganda promulgated by insurance companies and some politicians, that monetary compensation will be quickly forthcoming and with little real effort.  In the 35 plus years that we have helped accident victims we have learned that this is very rarely the case.

It is for this reason that we have worked so hard to develop not only the skills and experience of our attorneys but also those of our staff of paralegals, investigators, IT personnel and secretaries.  Should you require the services of an attorney we look forward to serving your needs.

Whether your particular injury was caused by a motor vehicle accident, medical malpractice, drug interaction or a host other possible causes, we have the resources to protect your rights.

Don’t be deceived by catchy slogans whose titles often imply the opposite of their true intent.                                 

Let’s seek justice together!

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Credit Life Insurance

Consumers who purchase automobiles or other expensive products often have finance agreements which include a credit life or disability charge. Under some circumstances, a consumer who pays such a loan off early (including simply trading in the automobile for another) is due a refund of an unearned premium.  If you think that you are entitled to such a refund, feel free to make an appointment to discuss such with Lauren Merriam.

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Minimizing a businesses exposure to Discrimination lawsuits

One of the most important things a business owner can do to minimize its exposure to its employees in the employment litigation arena is to draft job descriptions that specifically describe the employees job duties and the employers expectations for any given job. This practice reduces confusion, makes employees more accountable and increases efficiency. It also helps to protect an employer later on should a discrimination lawsuit arise because it will minimize any disputes with respect to the exact job duties a given employee was required to perform.

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From the Desk of Dock Blanchard

I am proud to be one of only five attorneys in the state to have received the distinction of being awarded board certification in both Appellate Practice and Civil Trial. I am sure however that most people do not fully appreciate what this means. It is not like many awards which can be bought or given gratuitously, it must be earned. First an attorney must make an application which is reviewed by other board certified lawyers before he or she is allowed to sit for the exams. Before the application can be filed the applicant must meet very stringent standards of experience in the particular field of certification and must be “peer reviewed” not only by other attorneys but also by judges before whom the attorney has practiced. The exams are strenuous and the passing rate hovers around sixty percent. In addition the certification must be renewed every 5 years. I was first certified in Civil Trial in 1989 and in Appellate Practice in 1995. I have been continuously certified in both since then. I am humbly proud that these certifications allow me to designate myself as an “expert”; only a board certified attorney may do so.

Should you need the services of a trial or appellate attorney please consider board certification as one of the criteria to be used in evaluating your selection of an attorney to represent you. This is true regardless of the basis of your need for an attorney. Board certified lawyers often concentrate in different areas and one board certified attorney who does not concentrate in the area of your particular need will recognize this and refer you to one who does.

I have successfully used my experience in state and federal courts in Florida and many other states; both at the trial and appellate levels. I have tried Medical Malpractice, Automobile Accident, Products Liability, Aviation Accident, and Slip and Fall cases. I have handled complex appeals and I am licensed to argue before the United States Supreme Court.

Lastly I would like to point out that our firm is unique among most trial law firms in that we represent both persons who are injured and seek just compensation for their injuries and those who are unjustly accused of having injured someone else. We do not however represent insurance companies: we represent people.

Let’s seek justice together.
Thank you,

DOCK A. BLANCHARD

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