What is Patient Brokering?
Maybe you have heard the term “patient brokering” in the news ? But what exactly is it and is it legal? Our Miami personal injury lawyers at Wolfson & Leon tell us that “patient brokering” is illegal and the practice has no place in the personal injury industry.
When some people act illegally and/or unethically, it brings shame to everyone including those of us who follow the rules and comply with the law. That is why our personal injury attorneys in Miami strongly support law enforcement efforts to reduce and eliminate the bad actors who partake in the illegal act of “patient brokering”.Florida Statute 817.505 – Patient Brokering Prohibited: Exceptions: Penalties
In Chapter 817 – entitled “Fraudulent Practices” – the specific Florida statute that prohibits patient brokering can be found at 817.505. Generally speaking it is illegal and unlawful for any health care facility, provider or person to induce, refer or accept a referral of a patient to pay or offer – in kind or in cash a:
- Engage in split-fee arrangement
There are statutory exceptions for legally approved programs, payments and commissions. But in the personal injury arena, this statutory prohibition applies most often in car accident cases.
If any provider, facility or person is found guilty of patient brokering is found guilty the penalties and punishments can be rather severe:
- Any violation of the statute can result in a third-degree felony conviction and a fine of $50,000
- If the violation involves 10 or more patients but less than twenty patients, then a second-degree felony conviction is possible as well as a fine of $100,000
- If more than 20 patients are involved, then it can be considered a first-degree felony and a fine of $500,000
Car accident victims often run into the problem of finding a doctor who will treat them following a car accident. Time after time the Miami car accident lawyers at Wolfson & Leon have clients who find that their regular primary physician will not treat them following a car accident. Some primary doctors are not set up bill insurance companies for benefits under personal injury protection coverage. Other physicians simply do not want to be involved with automobile insurance companies, personal injury attorneys or insurance defense lawyers.
It is understandable that a primary physician or family doctor would not want to be involved with personal injury claims. They do not want to be deposed or subpoenaed for fear that they will have to retain their own attorney to protect their interests from insurance defense attorneys or insurance companies. It simply isn’t worth it for these physicians.
The question is whether a car accident injury victim can legally ask or receive a referral to a physician or healthcare provider from their attorney? The answer is yes and that conversation is protected by the attorney-client privilege as recently confirmed by the Florida Supreme Court in the case of Worley v. Central Florida Young Men’s Christian Ass’n, Inc.
But the difference between a legal referral and illegal patient brokering comes down to whether there was any compensation for the referral or treatment of the patient. If a car accident victim’s attorney refers his or her client to potential healthcare providers, that is perfectly legal. However, if the attorney or the healthcare provider are involved in some type of scheme involving compensation of some kind that is prohibited by Florida statute, then it is illegal.
Ultimately, it comes down to the selection of your attorney and healthcare providers following a car accident. Assuming you were diligent in selecting the best car accident lawyer for your case, then you should trust the advice of your attorney. Of course, never forget that you are the client. If you have a question about any part of your case, including the doctors or healthcare providers, then you should be comfortable enough to ask your lawyer to answer questions.
If you have any questions following a car accident in Miami, Broward or Palm Beach counties, the car accident attorneys at Wolfson & Leon offer free consultations. Just call us at (305) 285-1115 with your questions and we will be happy to help you in any way that we can.