Doctors, nurses, and staff members at medical practices in New York may face numerous issues that implicate health care law. How these issues are handled can affect their careers, as well as their ability to continue to treat patients. At Gerstman Schwartz, we understand the high stakes in these matters. For example, a doctor who has signed an overly restrictive non-compete agreement may find it difficult to use his skills. Under those circumstances, it is crucial to retain a skillful civil litigator with a full understanding of both the health care law issues and the employment law issues involved. For another example, if a doctor is charged with a crime because a patient has overdosed, it is vital to retain an attorney who understands the potential consequences for the doctor’s license and knows how to mount the strongest possible defense. Our attorneys represent only doctors and employees, rather than hospitals.
If you are a doctor or a staff member at a hospital, you may feel pressured to sign an employment agreement drafted by your employer and presented to you. The terms of the employment agreement may include your salary, your start date, and the conditions of employment. However, an employment contract drafted by an employer may contain provisions that are not in your best interest and can negatively affect your career. These may include non-compete provisions, whereby a doctor agrees not to engage in a selected profession in competition with fellow doctors. These may be geographically restricted, or they may be more expansive.
Equally important are separation agreements, which may include financial or professional incentives, in exchange for which a doctor is asked to waive statutorily or constitutionally protected rights. In some cases, this is a decision with drastic repercussions. You may have been offered a small severance, in exchange for giving up the right to sue for significantly more compensation. You should talk to an experienced health care attorney in New York about your options.Disciplinary
In New York, the Office of the Professions sets high standards of professional practice and controls licensing for the medical professions. Title 2-A governs professional misconduct. Under Section 230-A, discipline can result in censure and reprimand, partial or total suspension, limitations on a license to a certain area or kind of practice, license revocation, annulment of a license, limits on registration, fines of up to $10,000, a requirement that a licensee pursue a course of education or training, or a requirement that a licensee perform a maximum of 500 hours of public service in a way and at a time and place as directed by the board. If a complaint is filed against you, the Office of Professional Medical Conduct will investigate whether disciplinary action should be taken. The outcome of a disciplinary action can threaten your livelihood, so it is important not to take any chances and to retain an attorney.Criminal Defense
If you have been charged with a crime while practicing medicine or providing medical services, you need to mount a strong defense with the assistance of a New York health care attorney. Criminal charges to which doctors and nurses may be exposed include drug trafficking, falsification of records, reckless endangerment, criminal sale of a prescription, health care fraud, and offering false instruments for filing. You can also face False Claims Act charges, HIPAA privacy violations, RICO violations, kickback charges, and more. Criminal charges must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. However, they can give rise to disciplinary or civil actions that may not be held to the same tough standard. Your professional future is on the line when you face criminal charges.Audits
Your practices as a doctor may be audited frequently. Legal representation may be required for certain non-routine audits. Medical auditing involves internal and external reviews of policies, procedures, and coding accuracy. Doctors’ practices are audited often or even routinely. However, not every audit is routine, and legal representation can make a difference in some audits. Audits that may not be routine include audits that are conducted because of recent expansion into new services or equipment, changes in billing practices, questions about supervision and billing, an employee’s departure, and questions from a payer’s representative. Audits must be conducted according to legal requirements, such as HIPAA. If our New York health care lawyers represent you in a large-scale audit, we may retain an independent auditor.Civil Litigation
As a doctor or health care professional, there are many disputes that can grow and turn into costly litigation. For example, injured patients can bring medical malpractice lawsuits against any licensed health care provider. Most cases settle out of court before the case moves into the trial stage of litigation, but it is important to retain an experienced attorney to negotiate a fair settlement, or to mount a strong defense at trial. There is no cap on medical malpractice damages in New York, unlike in some other states. Other legal issues that can give rise to civil litigation include defamation, slander, and breaches of employment contracts.Investigations
In New York, the Office of Professional Medical Conduct investigates professional discipline issues related to doctors and physician assistants. Its goal is to protect the public, and it examines all claims of misconduct. It also coordinates disciplinary hearings that arise out of investigations, and it monitors doctors whose licenses are restored after being temporarily surrendered. It monitors doctors and physician assistants who have been put on probation due to disciplinary action. Disciplinary action for medical misconduct may result from allegations that a doctor or physician assistant practiced with gross incompetence or gross negligence, practiced fraudulently, filed false reports, guaranteed that treatment would result in a cure, failed to provide services for discriminatory reasons, harassed or abused a patient, or ordered excessive tests. Certain actions, such as complaints about fees, do not fall under the purview of the OPMC.Consult an Experienced Health Care Lawyer in New York
If you are a doctor or a medical staff member who is facing criminal charges, disciplinary proceedings, or civil litigation, you should contact Gerstman Schwartz. Our attorneys also guide medical professionals through matters such as audits and employment negotiations. We represent clients throughout the five boroughs of New York City and in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Call us at (212) 227-7070 or contact us via our online form for a free consultation.