Monday, August 31, 2015

Health Information Confidentiality



Most everyone has heard of HIPAA (the "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act").   This law covers health care plans, health care providers, clearinghouses, and their business associates. The health care information of individuals is protected from disclosure to the wrong parties by following these rules.

In general, the patient controls who sees his/her health care information.  There are two "required disclosures" that the health care entity must make:  1) to the individual or their personal representatives when specifically requested; and 2) to Health and Human Services in response to an investigation or review.

There are also certain times when the "public interest" may allow disclosure.   Public interest situations include disclosures made because of specific laws or situations (child abuse or neglect, abuse of the elderly or disabled, FDA tracking, OHSA purposes, communicable disease control, and the like).   Disclosure may also be allowed in some cases of domestic violence, to protect another person or the public from a threat, to facilitate organ donation, for purposes of determining cause of death or for preparing a body for burial, for law enforcement purposes, for workers compensation laws, or for other essential government functions.  There may also be disclosure when a court or administrative agency demands it by subpoena, order, or other lawful process.

But all of the rules and regulations in the world can't protect your information if you are careless with it yourself.  To maintain good control over your protected information, do the following: 


  1. Think about who you want to have access to your health care information.   It is usually best to have at least one person who has access, just in case something happens to you and you need assistance.  But don't choose just anyone, choose someone you trust. 
  2. Treat your medical records, prescription records and medical bills with the same care that you use for your bank statements and credit card receipts. 
  3. If you login online to see your medical records, be sure to use secure passwords and make sure that you log out when you are finished.  
  4. Be careful in public.  Just like you shouldn't shout out your social security number in public, you shouldn't share private health care information where the wrong person can hear it. 



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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Before you Embark on a Journey of Revenge...


"Revenge is sweet" according to a popular expression.

However, Confucius warned, "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves."

While the idea of revenge may feel satisfying, there is no doubt that it takes a toll on both parties.

There is nothing that gets strong emotions going like a legal fight.   Divorce, custody fights, business break ups, property disputes-  these are all the stuff of which revenge fantasies are made.

However, it is undisputable that taking out anger on the other party can have undesirable results, such as:
  1. Bystanders caught in the cross-fire (children, employees, friends).
  2. High blood pressure and other physical problems.
  3. Negative impact on the legal case by letting emotions rule the day.
  4. Decrease of income, lost business opportunities, and a disorganized personal/family life, because of lack of attention to the task at hand. 
  5. Affect on other personal relationships because the angry person has a "one track mind". 
Confucius was born over 2500 years ago, but the wisdom in this saying still holds true today.   "Before you make a journey of revenge, dig two graves."  Don't sacrifice yourself to pay someone back.    If you have a lawsuit pending, work within the legal system to make your point. Your attorney and the law office staff will help you by keeping you focused on what's important. 

Remember that "The best revenge is living well."



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Monday, August 17, 2015

Co-Parenting: How Tough is it?




If you are getting a divorce and you have children you have probably already discussed co-parenting with your spouse and your attorney.

Co-parenting is sometimes looked upon with uneasiness or even fear for the following reasons:

  1. Anticipation that there will be too much control by the other parent. 
  2. Fear that "I might do something wrong" (get visitation dates wrong, say the wrong thing at a school event, etc.)
  3. "I don't want to interact with my ex-spouse at all"
You can feel more at ease by remembering the following: 

  1. You are doing this for your children, not yourselves.  You can set your boundaries, just be sure to do so calmly, and rationally. Remember, your spouse is learning to deal with a new situation too. Try to speak to your spouse the way that you want to be spoken to, and never berate your spouse to, or in front of, the children. 
  2. Your legal documents are your guide.  Although this is new to you both, you should keep a copy of your temporary orders, or mediation agreement (if the divorce is pending), or decree (once the divorce is final)  handy so that you can see the specifics when you need to
  3. Even if you don't want to interact with your ex-spouse, you'll have to for many years. When your children become adults, you are likely to see your ex at major events.   And you'll have court orders that you both need to follow, even if you wish it weren't so.
  4. Look to the future. If you "take the high road" now, you'll never have to worry about your children coming to you as adults and asking, "why did you always put my mom down in front of me" or "remember when you used to say _________ about my dad? Well, that hurt me!"
If you have a potentially harmful or dangerous situation (one that involves domestic violence or sexual assault of yourself or your children), co-parenting may not be appropriate for your situation.    If this is true share the details with your attorney early on so that the Judge can make specific orders that are good for the children, while keeping safety in mind. 




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Monday, August 10, 2015

Keeping Yourself Safe- Know the Risks of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a silent killer that can kill in minutes.   Keep yourself and your family safe from this hazard by following these tips:


  1. Never run generators in indoor spaces, even in garages, porches or sheds.  Only operate them outdoors in an open space, away from and downwind of buildings. 
  2. Don't use a gas range or oven for warmth. 
  3. Don't use a charcoal or barbeque grill in your home or garage. 
  4. Don't start up gasoline engines for tools in small or enclosed spaces. 
  5. Don't use a stove or fireplace unless it is properly ventilated.
  6. Don't run your car or truck in an attached garage with the door shut, or let it idle there. 
Symptoms of CO poisoning are nausea, headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, sleepiness, weakness.  

Space heaters that give off CO are hazardous, especially because they are often used when people are already sleeping, so they don't notice the symptoms of CO poisoning.

Also be aware of CO dangers to your pets, especially when they are alone in the house, and to pets and livestock in their shelters. 

If you suspect CO, open all the doors and windows, get out and call the file department, gas department or 911. 

Consider having a CO detector which is battery-operated (or has a battery backup). Check and maintain the detector, but still follow all safety precautions. 

(Thanks to the New York State Department of Health for this summary) 




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Sunday, August 2, 2015

I Told you 5 Million Times not to Exaggerate!



Exaggeration serves a purpose when you are writing a story, entertaining people, or trying to be creative. There are even times when you may exaggerate the risk of a problem to get someone's attention and for their own good. In sales exaggeration is called "puffing" and a certain amount of it is expected. However exaggerating when you have a legal case going can be a mistake and can cost you money.

Always be honest with your lawyer about the damages you have suffered for the amount of money or property that is it risk in your case. If you don't know for sure, or there is a wide range, say so. 

If you have to answer written discovery, or give a deposition, exaggeration is not a good idea. It will come back to bite you later when you are on the stand in the courtroom. 

Do a reality check with yourself and make sure that you are being realistic about the damages and facts in your case and also about your expectations. This will save you embarrassment as well as money.


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Monday, July 27, 2015

The 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act


This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA").   This was the first comprehensive law to protect the civil rights of Americans with Disabilities.

We are now used to seeing wheelchair ramps, handicapped parking spaces and telephone or ATM options for people with disabilities.  But, 25 years ago, these everyday items were not common.  

The ADA has made much progress, but like any change in civil rights law, it was met with some resistance, as well as some confusion.  Decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, other state and federal courts, and administrative agencies, have helped shape the law into what it is today. Congress also acted to amend and clarify the law and those changes and clarifications went into effect in 2009. 

Here are some agencies and groups relating to the rights of people with disabilities:

In Texas:
Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services
Disability Rights Texas
Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services

And here is a Federal resource page for disability rights and laws: Disability Resources from the U.S. Department of Labor


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Monday, July 20, 2015

Living in an Abusive Situation- Making a Personal Safety Plan


If you (or someone that you know) is living in an explosive, abusive situation, a plan for personal safety is important.

The Montgomery County Texas Sheriff Department has an excellent checklist that applies to various stages of the situation.

First of all, it is important to know what to do if violence erupts.  For instance, know how to get out of the way of anything that could be used as a weapon, where the safest places in the house are located, who you could call and where to go if you had to leave suddenly, and devise a code word to use with family, friends and children to indicate an emergency or need to contact police.

Secondly, have emergency plans in place. Know where your important papers and financial information is located (or have copies of important documents stored in a safe place off premises), know about domestic abuse shelters that are available.  And don't forget to have an alternate plan for your pets to insure that they are fed and safe. (Domestic abuse shelters can  often help with this).

Third, there is a reminder that leaving the abuser is the most dangerous time. He or she will feel control slipping away and can become desperate.   Therefore, you may need to get an immediate protective order. Carry it with you at all times and decide in advance that you will call police if necessary, no  hesitation.

Fourth, make sure you are safe in your own residence.  Lock doors, use lighting, watch your back when coming and going. Don't give your abuser information about you, your premises, or your schedule.

Fifth, know how to stay safe on the job, what to tell your employers and co-workers. Make sure you inform your child's school, day care, and those in charge of after-school activities of your situation.

The Montgomery County Sheriff list is good advice for those in an abusive situation no matter what the location.  If you live outside the Montgomery County Texas area, be aware that other resources are also available online for your county.

(Photo is of Safe Haven of Tarrant County, Fort Worth)

 Kalish Law Office - Family Law - The Woodlands, Texas 

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