HIPAA Violations Attorney In St. Louis, MO
St Louis HIPAA Violation Attorneys
Patients have a right to privacy. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is the federal medical privacy law that regulates the use and the disclosure of patients’ medical information. Medical privacy is a major concern for citizens. Although healthcare providers and their support staff are supposed to operate in strict compliance with HIPAA, they sometimes do not. These violations undermine patients’ privacy. Wolff & Wolff Trial Lawyers features HIPAA violations attorneys who have years of experience practicing personal injury law in St. Louis, MO. If you believe your medical privacy has been violated, you can contact our firm for help.
What Is HIPAA?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a federal law that was designed to protect patients’ medical information and records. Everything that healthcare providers enter into your medical record is protected by the HIPAA mandate. The law also protects the conversations between doctors or other healthcare providers and patients as well as billing information. President Bill Clinton signed the act into law in 1996. Though it’s been years since the law was passed and medical staff have to undergo substantial training to ensure they understand the act’s provisions, thousands of violations still occur annually.
Who Must Follow HIPAA?
Most people are aware that doctors must adhere to the mandates laid out by HIPAA, but other entities must too, including:
- Healthcare Providers (i.e. doctors, surgeons, nurses, healthcare aids)
- Healthcare Plans (Medicare, Medicaid, HMOs, PPOs
- Hospitals, Clinics, and Other Healthcare Institutions
- Pharmacists and Pharmacy Staff
- Psychologists / Therapists
- Nursing Homes
These covered entities must comply with each aspect of HIPAA or they may be subject to fines for violations.
Many HIPAA violations frequently fall into the following categories:
- Improper security safeguards (i.e. data breaches)
- Uses / disclosures
- Access controls (i.e. improper viewing or ‘snooping’ patients’ records)
- Compliance audits
- Notice of privacy
But what do these categories mean? Specific breaches involve cases that include:
- Data breaches (i.e. malware attack, hacking, HRE breach, ransomware attack, lost laptop or USB device, office break-in)
- Looking into patient records without legitimate cause
- Denying patients access to their records
- Failure to perform risk assessments in order to protect patients’ records
- Lack of a risk-management process
- Failure to use encryption to protect patients’ private information
- Failing to issue breach notifications in accordance with deadlines
- Disclosing patient information to third parties
- Downloading personal health information onto devices that are unauthorized for such use
- Failing to properly destroy personal health information
- Leaving sensitive documents related to patient care unattended
- Releasing patients’ sensitive information to unauthorized parties
In more layman’s terms, these types of violations encompass actions like:
- A healthcare provider discusses your health information in a public area or over the phone in a public area where others can hear
- A healthcare provider tells relatives or friends about a patient in the hospital
- Failing to log off on a computer that contains patients’ private health information
- Releasing healthcare information about minors without any consent from parent or guardian
- Sending an email that contains private health information
- An uninvolved healthcare provider snoops into the medical database to see why someone they know was visiting the clinic or hospital
These are just some of the breaches that occur. If you have questions about a breach that occurred in reference to you, you can consult with our experienced attorneys for advice.
What Are the Penalties for HIPAA Violations?
HIPAA violations are serious—and expensive. When healthcare entities fail to comply with HIPAA, they may be liable for penalties that range from $100 per violation to $50,000 per violation. There is a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per year for identical violations. HIPAA violations can even include possible criminal charges. Jail time is an option.
Penalties also relate to the number of patients involved in the breach and the amount of neglect in question. Fines for HIPAA violations include two main categories: reasonable cause and willful neglect. Instances of willful neglect are those associated with criminal charges.
What Can Be Done If a Breach Occurs?
If you believe your privacy has been violated, get in touch with us. We can advise you about the process for reporting. At first, you may wish to file a HIPAA Privacy Complaint. These complaints are made to the federal government. There are time limits for filing which is why it’s best to contact us as soon as you suspect a breach. The government does take these claims seriously and will investigate. If it’s an extreme type of violation or a repeat offense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation may investigate as criminal charges could be involved.
In most cases, however, the government’s administration will handle these complaints and determine what type of fine to assess if the healthcare provider is determined to have violated HIPAA. The government will also keep provide you with a report about their findings as well as what actions they’ve taken. If you need assistance filing this report, we can certainly provide it. If you file the complaint and receive a report that confirms a violation, you should consider bringing your case to us at that point.
Filing Complaints with Licensing Boards
Many victims of HIPAA violations contact personal injury attorneys for assistance filing complaints with the medical provider’s licensing board, which also wants to know about confidentiality violations. Again, these violations are not taken lightly. Medical licensing boards will investigate these matters. If the board in question, medical board or nursing board, determines that the violation is authentic, you—or we—can obtain a copy of their findings. Should you proceed with a civil lawsuit, you may be entitled to have an expert witness review your case and provide testimony.
Making Complaints to Third Parties
Depending on your insurance plan or provider, you may also make a formal complaint for HIPAA violation with a third party such as the VA or Medicare. As a member of an insurance plan, you can report the violation to your insurance company. You can request a peer review in many of these cases. Let us advise you about the process.
The difficulty in winning compensation in these types of cases is that there must be provable damages. Many attorneys will not take on a HIPAA violation case without provable damages. The damages must be documented and provable. Wolff & Wolff Trial Lawyers offers a free initial consultation, so we can discuss the specifics of your case. The fact is, we may not know the strength of the claim until we follow certain processes—file the complaints and receive reports from the federal government or licensing boards. However, we can provide our opinion of the matter based on our knowledge of HIPAA violations and decades’ worth of experience.
We will tell you outright if we believe your case has merit. We will also explain its challenges as we see them. Keep in mind that if the federal government, state licensing boards, and insurance providers do not find your complaint to be valid, it is unlikely that a jury would. We can discuss this in more detail upon meeting.
What are provable damages? Here are some common types that are associated with these cases:
- Physician / hospital fees
- Purchase of credit protection insurance
- Purchase of identity theft insurance
- Mental health counseling costs
- Expenses you paid after your identity was stolen
- Missed work wages
- Attorneys’ fees
- Other out-of-pocket expenses associated with the breach
Retain these documents if you have them. They can constitute evidence and support your claim. If you don’t have these documents, it will be difficult to prove damages. However, we can still go over the case as there may be other compelling factors that support your claim.
Remember, there is a time limit for filing personal injury claims like these. That’s why we recommend that you get in touch with us as soon as you suspect a HIPAA violation. We will apprise you of the deadlines for filing, how to file, and can even assist you in filing your initial complaints.
How Can Wolff & Wolff Trial Lawyers Help You?
The attorneys of Wolff & Wolff Trial Lawyers have experience with HIPAA violations. Our personal injury law firm focuses on a wide range of personal injury cases. When you hire our firm for help, you can expect us to:
- Fully assess your claim: we’ll examine the claim and discuss its merits and obstacles with you so you can make an informed decision about how to proceed
- Provide legal counsel: you likely have questions about what to do in cases of HIPAA breaches. We will address all of your concerns and answer your questions based on our extensive understanding of these matters
- Investigate: we may need to perform some investigative tasks on your behalf such as contacting licensing boards to obtain forms or information
- Court documents / paperwork: our attorneys can file court documents for you and manage all related paperwork. We can also assist you with filling out your complaints.
- Pursue your claim: we will diligently represent you should you decide to pursue your claim for damages
As a small legal firm in St. Louis, MO, we are able to provide our clients with personalized attention. No client is merely a case number to us. We will get to know your claim inside out because every detail matters. Throughout the legal procedure, we will keep you abreast of all updates. We excel in communication and believe in answering our clients questions as soon as possible.
If you believe that your medical information has been breached, don’t wait to seek legal advice. Time is of the essence in these cases. Contact us to schedule your free initial consultation.