03Apr 2020

During these uncertain times of the coronavirus outbreak, people may be finding themselves with available unplanned time.

What can you do with this gift of time? Plan for the future.

It’s a great time to make sure all your insurance, estate and medical access documents are adequate and up to date and you and your loved ones know where to locate them are in case of emergency.

One example of documents you may want to have on hand relate to the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Many of us grew up in a time when a friend or relative was hospitalized, we could call the hospital to inquire about their well-being. Today with HIPAA regulations, hospitals and doctors are no longer able to give out any patient information or confirm a patient is even in the hospital, unless you are married.

Unmarried partners who have been together for decades will find they are unable to get information about their partner.This is even true for parents whose children are over the age of 18! Parents have no rights to obtain medical information on legal-age children, even if the child is covered under the parent’s health insurance.

A signed HIPAA authorization and Medical Power of Attorney allows parents access to their adult children’s medical information, or unmarried partners to get information on their partner. Requirements for these documents can vary from state to state, so an attorney can make sure documents are appropriate for each situation.

Something that most people know they should have but often put off is to update or create a Will or Trust that makes sure your loved ones are cared for should something happen to you. Not having a Will and/or Trust may increase your family’s tax liabilities, not to mention the legal disputes or challenges that result when there is no estate plan in place. An experienced attorney can help guide your estate planning experience and tailor your documents to meet your needs and wishes for the future.

Why plan?

  • There are people who count on you
  • The unexpected does happen
  • It’s not as complicated or time consuming as you think.

If you have already prepared your Will or Trust, know that it is not a one-time project but a lifelong process that requires revisiting. Now is a good time to review to make sure your wishes haven’t changed:

  • Are the Beneficiaries you selected in your Will and Trust still the ones you would name today? How about alternates? Are they still willing and able to assume those responsibilities? Are the Beneficiaries on your life insurance up to date?
  • For those with minor children, are the Guardians you named the persons you want to raise your children? What about pets? Have you designated who will care for them?
  • Does your planning reflect all your assets, big and small?
  • Have you created letters of instruction with key information in the event of an emergency, including names and contact information for key professional advisors, location of original records, how to find passwords and other key online information, key medical information, insurances summaries and other general instructions?

With hurricane season beginning May 1, you can take time to review your homeowners and medical insurance coverage. An attorney can review confusing homeowners and medical insurance policies and explain coverage and any limitations.

And while many people are staying home, time on the road or in grocery stores can still result in accidents, particularly with an anxious and stressed population. While it may seem like nearly everything is closed and you may feel like you are on your own, we are available and committed to providing our community and clients with service and representation you can depend on.

In the event of an accident, it’s still important to take steps to collect information and get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible.

  • Check for injuries and start first aid if needed. Remain calm.
  • Move yourself to a safe location if necessary.
  • Call 911 for law enforcement and emergency medical personnel assistance.
  • Take note of other vehicles, type, color, damage, license plate number, etc. Take pictures if possible.
  • Identify witnesses and obtain their contact information.
  • Speak to police only. Do not make any admissions to anyone.
  • When being examined by EMS personnel, let them know how you feel everywhere on your body. Do not withhold injury information from them.
  • Locate your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance information for police.
  • If your car is not drivable, ask for a towing company of your choice and have your vehicle towed to a location of your choice (dealer, body shop, or another storage free location). Towing companies charge $25.00 or more to store your car and if your bill is not paid within a specified time, the tow company may take ownership of your car.
  • Have all injuries checked by a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant as soon as possible, but not more than 14 days after the accident.
  • Report the accident to your own insurance company. (Do not give a recorded statement without legal representation).
  • Seek all medical help recommended by your doctors.

Since 1962 we have weathered challenging times together. We have been protecting our neighbors in Southwest Florida for nearly 60 years, and we will continue to provide uninterrupted legal support through virtual services now available that include video conferencing and telephone consultations. Upon engaging our services, we offer secure electronic document signing and execution.

Our priority, as always, is the safety of the community and our neighbors. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the coronavirus (COVID–19) pandemic.


13Mar 2020

Belviq pillsIt’s very disconcerting to find out that a drug you were taking to improve your health may be seriously harming it.

In February, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested that the manufacturer of Belviq and Belviq XR (lorcaserin) voluntarily withdraw the weight-loss drug from the U.S. market because a safety clinical trial identified an increased occurrence of several types of cancer, including pancreatic, colorectal and lung in people taking the drugs.

Studies conducted since Belviq was approved for use in 2012 found that of 12,000 patients taking it, about 7.7 percent were diagnosed with cancers, compared to 7.1 percent in a placebo group.

Belviq was approved as a prescription weight loss drug for adults who are obese or who have weight related medical problems that prohibit them from losing weight through traditional diet and exercise. The active ingredients of the pill are intended to trigger chemical signals that make people want to eat less.
Despite pre-market testing that suggested Belviq exposure in rats could cause cancerous tumors, the FDA approved Eisai to start promoting the drug. However, the manufacturer was required to conduct a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial in order to determine if there were any cancer or cardiovascular side effects in humans from Belviq.

After reviewing the results of the clinical trial, the FDA decided to ask for a voluntary recall of the drug believing the risks of lorcaserin outweigh the benefits. The trial was conducted in 12,000 patients over 5 years. A range of cancer types was reported, with several different types of cancers occurring more frequently in the lorcaserin group, including pancreatic, colorectal, and lung.

Belviq and Belviq XR are manufactured by Japanese drug maker Eisai Co. who began selling the medication in the U.S. in 2013. The medication quickly became a popular choice among prescribing doctors, with more than 600,000 prescriptions filled in 2015 alone, with sales reaching an estimated $50 million.
In light of the recall, patients should stop taking lorcaserin and talk to health care professionals about alternative weight-loss medicines and weight management programs.

Belviq and Belviq XR are manufactured by Japanese drug maker Eisai Co. who began selling the medication in the U.S. in 2013. The medication quickly became a popular choice among prescribing doctors, with more than 600,000 prescriptions filled in 2015 alone, with sales reaching an estimated $50 million.

It appears that manufacturers knew or should have know about the link between Belviq and cancer for years. As a result, users who were harmed by the drug may be entitled to financial compensation and settlements from the manufacturers. Further, if a member of your family died because of cancers potentially caused by Belviq, you may be able to pursue compensation for wrongful death.

If you are someone you love used Belviq or Belviq XR for weight loss for at least three months since 2012 and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer, lunch cancer or another cancer along the digestive tract, we welcome the opportunity to assist you. For a free consultation and more information about your legal options, please call one of our Southwest Florida law firm offices at 239-334-1146. If you prefer, you may complete our form and a client relations representative will contact you shortly.

28Feb 2020

By Christopher J. Smith, Managing Partner


Knowing that accidents can happen does not detract from the pain and confusion that can result when an accident or injury happens to you or a loved one, as you try to deal with the aftermath.

Personal injury cases are legal disputes that arise when one person suffers harm from an accident or injury, and someone else might be legally responsible for that harm.

Some examples of personal injury include:

There are many reasons to consider hiring a personal injury attorney to represent your rights. Many personal injury accidents involve insurance companies, which often have a lot of legal resources. To level the playing field, it’s helpful to have your own team of experts when dealing with insurance companies, whether your own carrier or the carrier of the other party. Bottom line: insurance companies will protect their own interests first.

It’s also important to have the right medical team handling your injuries. A personal injury attorney will be knowledgeable about laws in the state and help get you the right medical experts who will be able to explain how your injuries could impact you in the future.

An attorney can also spend the time to request medical records, review police reports, communicate with the insurance adjuster and be objective while you may be hurt, frustrated and angry. Attorneys also have many tools to pursue a fair settlement, including arbitration, mediation or even trial.

How do I choose a personal injury attorney?

The success of personal injury attorneys is based on several factors, including education, legal skill and experience. The attorney you retain should have a proven record of winning cases similar to yours and should be willing to thoroughly explain his or her recommendations based on the specific details of your case.

In addition to experience, does the attorney you are considering have certifications and industry endorsements, such as the Florida Bar Association’s Board Certification? Peer reviews such as The Martindale-Hubbell Bar Registry (www.martindale.com), which has peer review ratings of more than 1 million lawyers across the country, The Best Lawyers in America (www.bestlawyers.com), which are selected by peers, and Super Lawyers (www.superlawyers.com), which have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement are a few to look for.

It’s important that you feel comfortable with the attorney you hire and confident that your interests will be a top priority.

Who will do the work on my case?

Will your initial consultation be with an attorney, or with a non-attorney staff member? It’s important to meet the attorney who will be working on your case and ask them about how communication will be handled and what level of access you will have to them. Are client reviews available? They can help you see the experience through a client’s eyes.

What is your level of courtroom experience?

Despite what television and films might portray, most civil cases do not go to trial, so why is it important to seek an attorney with trial experience? The prospect of a potential trial will have significant impact on your case and its value. If the insurance company knows your lawyer doesn’t typically go to trial, they may offer less. It’s more effective if negotiations reflect the fact that an unsatisfactory settlement offer may result in taking the case to trial.


What is my case worth?

There is no tried and proven formula to determine exactly how much a case is worth and it may depend on several factors including: how the evidence is received and evaluated by a jury; whether or not there are any inconsistencies in testimony; the availability of medical records; pre-existing conditions and other factors that would allow the insurance company’s lawyer to attack the credibility of the injured party.

Under the law, plaintiffs in personal injury cases are entitled to both economic and non-economic damages. These include:

  • Past medical bills
  • Future medical bills
  • Past lost wages
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Inconvenience
  • Loss of capacity to enjoy life
  • Mental anguish
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement

Because every case is different, even with all the information, it is very difficult for anyone to establish an exact figure as to the net worth of a case. But, typically, a range of value can be determined.

What are the attorney’s fees and costs for a personal injury case?

Fees in a personal injury case are contingent upon the financial recovery in your case. The fees are in accordance with guidelines set by the Florida Supreme Court. If there is no recovery, there is no fee. Therefore, lawyers share a common objective of obtaining a favorable result in your case.

Make sure your financial arrangement is clearly and fully explained at the initial interview as well as during pursuit of the case.

Why must I pay “costs” in my case?

In Florida, a lawyer or law firm is not permitted to obtain a financial interest in the client’s case. To ensure this does not happen, Florida Bar rules governing the conduct of lawyers allows a law firm to advance the costs of a case or litigation, but the client must remain responsible to the law firm to reimburse the costs of the matter.

Depending on the type of case involved, costs can be minimal or can run into thousands of dollars if complex litigation is involved. In cases that are settled before a lawsuit is filed, the costs are much less.

Costs can include:

  • Court filing fees
  • Expert witness fees
  • Administrative fees
  • Information-gathering expenses

In certain cases, these expended costs can be recovered from the insurance company directly.

What is the level of experience of the firm?

Experience is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing an attorney. With experience, a personal injury attorney will be able to anticipate problems before they occur, and effectively defend arguments against a victim’s compensation.

Any potential personal injury case requires a detailed understanding of the facts, the processes and the law. If an accident has impacted your life — and someone else is liable for that injury — then you may be entitled to compensation. Learn more by speaking with an injury law attorney near you.

21Jan 2020
Motorcyclist? We’ve got your back

The team of Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz was proud to sponsor the “Rev it Up” Bike Night at the Shell Factory Jan. 16. Food specials and Happy Hour benefitted Shell Factory’s nature park foundation, and our team was on hand to answer questions about motorcycle law and safety.

As experienced trial lawyers, Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz assist clients who have suffered injuries or losses as a result of a motorcycle injury. We seek all sources of compensation available to our clients such as medical expenses, loss of wages, rehabilitation and other possible long-term expenses in order to help them make a full financial recovery.

Join us at the next bike night at the Shell Factory March 19, we’d love to meet you! And we’ve got water bottles, grocery bags, highlighters, pens, chip clips, magnetic clips, lip balm and keychains to share.