By Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D.
Many licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs), licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT), and other mental health professionals carry professional malpractice insurance through Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO) or one of the many other insurance companies. What they may not realize is that their insurance will pay for their legal defense expenses if there is a complaint filed against their license, they receive a subpoena, or they are accused of violating HIPAA or a client’s medical confidentiality.
Under such policies, the insurance company will pay the legal fees and other costs related to your defense. However, you will be required to locate and retain the appropriate attorney to represent you in the matter.
What to Look For When Retaining an Attorney to Defend You.
1. The primary qualification for any attorney you hire to represent you should be her experience in working with health professionals in the same field. If the attorney is not familiar with your area of health practice, it may be difficult for that attorney to get up to speed to represent you properly.
2. If you come across an attorney who states that he or she will help you make a statement or assist you in the investigation, but does not appear in hearings, then this is the wrong attorney. You need an attorney that can represent you from start to finish.
3. Seek and retain an attorney who accepts the insurance that you have, whether it is HPSO Insurance, CPH & Associates Insurance, Philadelphia Insurance, Trust Management Services, or another national company. This will ensure that you have an attorney who will give you the lower rates the insurance company had negotiated and will have a good working relationship established with your insurance company. If an attorney with our firm cannot represent you, we will try to find an attorney who will.
4. You also want to retain the services of an attorney who has appeared before your professional board or professional licensing authority in investigations and hearings, especially formal administrative hearings.
5. Often you will come across an attorney who only wants you to accept a consent order, stipulation, or settlement agreement. Remember that these are all merely plea bargains and you will be pleading guilty to whatever offenses are charged. In most cases, you will be innocent and need a formal administrative hearing in order to prove this.
6. You don’t necessarily need an attorney in your city, state, or location. Almost all the work on the case will be done by telephone and e-mail. You usually have only one meeting or hearing and, depending on what type of hearing it is, it could be located in many different locations. Our attorneys will travel to those locations for meetings and hearings.
7. Beware of attorneys who hold themselves out in Internet advertising as health attorneys or professional license defense attorneys but are really some other type of attorneys. We see this a lot from medical malpractice attorneys and criminal defense attorneys. Be sure you get an attorney that concentrates his or her practice in defending those in your specialty board complaints, investigations and hearings.
8. If you can’t find an attorney to meet your immediate needs through an Internet search, you may contact your insurance company or professional association and ask if they have a list of attorneys that can do the legal work you require.
For example, you may reach Healthcare Providers Service Organization at (800) 982-9491; you can reach Nurses Service Organization (NSO) at (800) 247-1500; you can reach CPH & Associates at (800) 875-1911 or (312) 987-9823. You can also access a list of professional license defense attorneys online at https://taana.org/referral/.
To learn more about finding an HPSO attorney to defend you in such matters, click here to read one of my prior blogs.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced Investigations of Mental Health Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers and Family Therapists.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to mental health counselors, psychologists, social workers, and family therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
In cases in which the health care professional has professional liability insurance or general liability insurance which provides coverage for such matters, we will seek to obtain coverage by your insurance company and will attempt to have your legal fees and expenses covered by your insurance company. If allowed, we will agree to take an assignment of your insurance policy proceeds in order to be able to submit our bills directly to your insurance company.
We also defend health professionals and health facilities in general litigation matters and business litigation matters.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and registered nurse. She practices with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.
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