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socrateaser
socrateaser, Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 37972
Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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I am starting an online business that allows 3rd parties to

Customer Question

I am starting an online business that allows 3rd parties to use my site to conduct therapy via the internet. I need a disclaimer for patients/clients to sign. I hear this is boiler plate but I can't find what I need on the net. I specifically need to make sure I'm not responsible for services or advice therapists may give out. Please advise.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Business Law
Expert:  socrateaser replied 4 years ago.
Hello,

You may want to look at Justanswer's terms of service (especially Sections B and D). What you are trying to do cannot be covered by a simple disclaimer, because it is illegal for a non-licensed person to assist licensed mental health professionals in delivering services, except as a nonprofit (e.g., suicide helpline), or as an employee of a mental health professional). Justanswer's terms of service attempt to thread this needle by characterizing Answers as not intended as professional therapy, anonymous and public.

The point here is that you will need a very expansive agreement with your users, rather than a simple disclaimer, and the only one of which I am aware that comes close to satisfying this requirement, is the Justanswer terms of service.

So, check it out.

Hope this helps.

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Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Hi,

It's not for mental health. The clinicians are speech pathologists providing services that rage from stuttering therapy, accent reduction and language therapy. So there is a professional relationship for a sometimes medical issue. How does that change things?
Expert:  socrateaser replied 4 years ago.
Different state jurisdictions may have different laws concerning the government licensure of speech pathologists. In California, for example, a speech pathologist must be licensed no different than a lawyer, physician, accountant, nurse, physical therapist, etc. In which case, my answer would be unchanged, if you intend to offer your services to persons located in California -- which as the most populous state, usually determines the baseline requirements for any website operated by a U.S. citizen.

Note: As a practical reality, internet business owners typically start operations and then "ask questions later." Large revenue streams created by businesses that appear to be engaged in a valuable public service, are frequently overlooked by government, because of the concern that the public will excoriate the government prosecutors for taking away a bona fide means of employment and a valuable service.

However, that doesn't make a particular service legal -- so, you have to measure your risk. I can assure you that, for example, were justanswer.com to start allowing the physicians here to contact customers in State jurisdictions where the physicians are not licensed and personally diagnose and prescribe treatment for customer-specific illness or injury, or similarly, allowed attorneys to contact customers in jurisdictions where the attorneys were not licensed and draft specific wills and trust instruments or business contracts for those customers, that justanswer.com would be having a "going out of business" sale about 24 hours after the discovery of that conduct -- no matter what sort of disclaimer or terms of use were in force on the website. The legal and medical professions are highly regulated and attempts to substantially interfere with the government's control are quickly quashed out of existence.

So, what matters here is exactly what you propose to do any how you propose to do it, and especially whether or not your activity will have a substantial negative affect on the profession of speech pathology as it is currently conducted The more profound and negative the effect (and that includes the negative economic effect on traditional "brick and mortar" speech pathology activities, the greater your risk.

Hope this helps.

NOTICE: My goal here is to educate the public about the law. Please help me in this effort by clicking Accept for my Answer to your Question. If you have a subscription account, clicking Accept does not create any additional charge. It merely gets me credit for my Answer.

And, if you need to contact me again, please put my user id on the title line of your question (“To Socrateaser”), and the system will send me an alert. Thanks!

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