What Every Medical Malpractice Attorney Needs To Know About Computer Forensics

December 13, 2016 - from DisputeSoft's G. Hunter Jones

Medical mistakes not only may put a patient’s life or health at risk but also lead to an investigation of the practice and, depending on the evidence, potential litigation.

Evidence of mistakes or unethical behavior by medical professionals can often be found only deep within the metadata of a computer system, a medical record, or a medical image. A computer forensics expert can follow the trail of technological breadcrumbs to uncover factual information that exposes medical mistakes or even their cover-ups. The following real-world scenarios illustrate how the work of a computer forensics expert can help counsel to ferret out critical facts of a case:

1. A doctor fails to detect a severe birth defect in an ultrasound image. By examining computerized medical records, a computer forensics expert can uncover evidence that indicates which radiologist examined the image and when each examination was conducted. If the ultrasound image has been deleted, the expert can determine when the image was deleted and may be able to recover the lost image.

2. A patient fails to show up for a follow-up appointment, claiming that the practice never scheduled such an appointment. An investigation determines that the practice changed the computer system it uses to manage its electronic health records, and the record of the appointment cannot be recovered using the practice’s new system. A computer forensics expert can stand up the old system to inspect the order and appointment history to determine whether the patient’s missed appointment was actually scheduled.

3. A physician fails to produce a patient’s medical records upon request. A contractor handles the medical records for the practice, and the practice’s staff is unfamiliar with the computer system used to manage the records. As a result, the staff’s efforts to produce a patient’s medical records fail, and the patient claims that his/her records were altered and inadequate. A computer forensics expert can determine whether the patient’s electronic health records were altered or improperly maintained.

The above scenarios are just a few of the many kinds of disputes that may arise from allegations of medical malpractice.  In any case that involves digitally stored files, computerized images, or medical software, a computer forensic expert may have the skills to gather crucial evidence that could help to decide a case.

For more information regarding DisputeSoft’s experience in medical malpractice disputes, please click here.

Practical Advice to Beat Piracy

November 7, 2016 - from DisputeSoft

Online piracy is an increasingly important issue facing U.S. policy makers. But it is especially daunting for U.S. copyright and trademark holders, the attorneys who represent them in combating piracy, and the forensic experts who provide support. This article offers a brief overview of some of the techniques we have successfully used to lay the necessary evidentiary foundation to support misappropriation and infringement claims. Forensic experts face a number of challenging requirements: they must collect and preserve allegedly infringing materials, identify the owners and operators of the websites distributing infringing materials, and evaluate the extent of infringement, so that the amount of damages can be determined. Fortunately, a variety of tools, reference sources, and techniques exist that facilitate tracking down and prosecuting those individuals or organizations engaged in online copyright or trademark piracy.

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What Every Attorney Needs to Know about Computer Forensics, Part 4: What Trusts and Estates Attorneys Need to Know about Computer Forensics

September 30, 2016 - from DisputeSoft's G. Hunter Jones

Trusts and Estates attorneys play an important role in helping their clients transfer assets through such vehicles as trust agreements, wills, business structures, and power of attorney. In most cases the disposition of an estate moves along smoothly, especially when a qualified attorney plans and executes the process.  However, this is not always the case. When a beneficiary (or hopeful beneficiary) raises concerns about lost or altered documents, or believes that the trustor has been unjustifiably influenced in some manner, expert assistance may be necessary to resolve the matter.  From medical and psychological examiners to document and computer forensics analysts, experts can prove pivotal for answering important questions about the timing, sequence, and authorship of key documents.

Consider the following situations, which reflect the kind of investigations DisputeSoft’s experts may be called upon to carry out:

1. A retired attorney chooses to prepare and revise his own trust instrument.  The word processing document exists on his personal computer, making the revision process simple to complete.  After making edits to three pages of his trust document, he reprints and replaces only those specific pages in the printed trust instrument.  However,   the printer he uses to make these revisions is slightly different from the prior model he used to print his original trust instrument. Because of the inconsistency in the   document with regard to its margins, ink, and type of paper, a disenfranchised beneficiary brings suit, claiming document alteration by the successor beneficiaries.

By examining the internal metadata in the document file, a computer forensics analyst can show that all of the pages in the document, including the revised pages, were created from the same word processing file, and that the latest modifications to the file were made well before the date of the trustor’s death.  The date of the modifications can then be checked against the printed trust instrument’s new signature date and notary certifications.

2. A potential heir brings suit when his late father leaves substantial property to a co-worker who had assisted the deceased in handling business and personal matters. By performing a liberal examination of the office computer produced by the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s expert recovers tens of thousands of potentially relevant files and fragments, including both intact and deleted files.

In such a situation, the defendant has the right to filter this material for privilege and relevance. But this is a daunting task, as the defendant must make determinations about many files that cannot be understood by a lay person, let alone reviewed for relevance in a dispute.  The defense’s computer forensics expert can help by filtering out thousands of completely irrelevant files, such as snippets of programs, help files, captured web pages, and advertisements. The defendant and his counsel are then able to make determinations about the privilege and relevance of the remaining 200 documents, spreadsheets, and e-mails in short order, and they can back up their filtering and selection processes with the certification of an expert.

In the wake of the death of a loved one, everyone hopes that the transfer of assets proceeds without a hitch.  In the unfortunate event that the potential beneficiaries get caught up in a dispute, a computer forensic expert may have the skills to help determine rightful ownership.