As more aesthetic surgeons are becoming targets for frivolous and not-so-frivolous lawsuits, the need to properly protect personal assets is gaining in acceptance and importance. To be fully protected means that everything you have worked for including the practice, your home, stock portfolio and personal belongings is sheltered, as often times a lawsuit can extend beyond the medical practice. In this interview with lead attorney, Jarom Hillery of Legally Mine, LLC, an asset protection company based in Orem, Utah, Aesthetic Insider™ goes beyond the medical practice and into the home to help us understand the very real threat of being sued beyond surgery. To learn more about Legally Mine, LLC, visit www.legallymineusa.com.
Outside of malpractice, in what other circumstances do doctors find themselves victims of lawsuits?
There is a perception in the US that all doctors are millionaires, so they tend to get sued. Many physicians think lawsuits only derive from incidents that happen in the practice but that is not always the case. Legally Mine recently engaged with a plastic surgeon in southern California, who earned a decent wage and had a beautiful house, among other assets. Two and a half years before he became our client, he had been out on a double date and his friend and their dates decided to go back to the doctor’s house to continue the evening, though everyone was a little tipsy. His friend’s date, for some unknown reason thought she was strong enough to pick up our client. He thought of it as nonsense but she reached around and tried to pick him up for a few seconds. While she was doing this she took a step in her high heels to steady herself, but tripped and dropped him onto her legs. Her leg broke and she was taken to the ER. He offered to help with medical expenses, not because he was responsible but because he felt bad. She declined, saying she was fine and that was the end of the relationship. However, two and a half years later, just before the statute of limitations expired, she filed a lawsuit against him for long term damage to her leg in excess of seven million dollars in damages. The case has not yet been settled. His biggest problem is that his home insurance only covers five hundred thousand dollars so her attorney will go after other unprotected assets if she wins the case. That was his wake-up call. Policies and insurance cannot guarantee your assets. Getting structured with Legally Mine protects assets smartly and effectively.
What would be different for this doctor if he was a client of Legally Mine?
She would probably not have sued him, or would have sued for less because beyond the $500,000. home insurance policy, the rest of his assets would have been protected. He was not expecting it; he’d offered to pay for medical bills which she turned down saying her insurance was covering everything, but then came back unexpectedly several years later and hit him with a lawsuit. A doctor cannot safely protect their assets after a lawsuit has been filed and they can get into trouble when they try to hide everything once the suit is in process. The courts don’t like that. It really is a matter of timing and a doctor ought to take care of these types of things before they become an issue, rather than after something has happened. We have had cases where somebody has a car accident while out of the office getting lunch for other staff members and that incident generated a lawsuit against the practice and the doctor. You could do everything perfect medically and still have liabilities just by living your life.
What are your responsibilities as the lead attorney with Legally Mine?
It’s an interesting position in the legal world. I spend a lot of my time meeting with clients, mostly physicians, surgeons and dentists, explaining complex legal principles in simple terms. They’re great at what they do but not well-versed in the world of asset protection, so there’s many explanations we give them so they understand our work together. I also spend time directing research because every state is different and we want to make sure that we provide uniform and valuable services in all the fifty states.
Is California law different than other states in the USA?
California is usually on the forefront at inventing new ways to sue people. LLC means Limited Liability Company and it’s to separate/protect business liability from personal liability. However, California believes in a system where, under one or few owners, business assets and personal assets are pretty much the same thing. Just because a physician’s practice is set up as a California Corporation, a business corporation, or a LLC, doesn’t guarantee personal protection. Many walk away feeling they are protected, when in reality the law is somewhat contrary. It is important for an asset protection to know and understand the implications of the law state-by-state.
Does a physician’s business assets protection cover private assets?
Most don’t and that’s where Legally Mine specializes. We look at total protection. It’s important for a physician to realize what of their total possessions are true assets. We review everything from laser and other office technology to real estate, stock portfolio, cars, jewelry, art and more to determine and strategize how best to place them into individual entities that are protected.
What is important about Estate Planning?
I’ve always liked the idea of protecting what you’ve built up and being able to effectively pass it on to the next generation whenever possible or desired. We meet with physician clients with plans set up back in the eighties that were probably cutting edge back then, but the laws have changed quite a bit in terms of estate planning and asset protection and so it’s just not effective for them anymore. It is important to review Estate Plans periodically to make sure they are still current as well as protected.
How does the Legally Mine legal team work with physicians across different states?
We keep on top of relevant research as laws change every year, and our team of attorneys, paralegals and law clerks help to maintain the research and make sure we stay ahead of the curve in terms of changes in laws. We’re able to see trends before they become nationwide problems. We see the rules and the guidelines around cases for individual states and set up our clients in a way that protects them from a problem that might not even come up for another ten years on a nationwide level.
What should a physician watch out for?
Liability from the practice and real estate. It’s also all about timing. It’s better to have asset protection and not need it, rather than to not have it and need it. Don’t be like the doctor who was sued for seven million dollars before signing up with Legally Mine.
To learn more about Legally Mine visit www.legallymineusa.com, or call (855) 361-2686.
To listen to Jarom Hillery’s interview on Aesthetic Insider™ Radio. CLICK HERE!