I'm often asked what need a malpractice defense attorney would have of a Legal Nurse Consultant (LNC). The line of thought is that the defendant himself or herself is a medical professional, so shouldn't they be able to explain everything to the attorney? In a certain sense this is true. One thing that the defendant medical practitioner may not be able to do, however, is give an unbiased, unimpassioned look at what the plaintiff is alleging and show how the plaintiff counsel can use the same medical records the defendant is looking at to tell a completely different story about what happened- one that seems to point to the defendant breaching his or her duty to the plaintiff. There is great value in having an outside medical professional weigh in on what the plaintiff side can use from the medical record in order to prove that a breech occurred.
An LNC can also assist in a medical malpractice case by creating presentation to help the legal staff visualize the medical procedures or physiologic mechanisms involved in the case. These presentations can serve to simplify the details of what is being alleged, and help legal staff visualize the difference between what the expected outcome was and what actually happened.
Legal Nurses can also navigate the medical record more quickly than non-medical legal staff. A LNC can identify any pre-existing conditions the plaintiff had or any documentation that may mitigate the defendant doctor or nurse’s liability. An LNC can also identify what the standard of care is, and the ways in which it was met by the practitioner (if any).
An LNC working for the defense can assist with discovery by identifying information that is missing or altered in the medical record so that the proper requests can be made. A Legal Nurse Consultant can also assist the attorney with developing more detailed interrogatories and help review and analyze the information provided in response to the interrogatories. The LNC can help clarify medical information that is both helpful and hurtful to the case. Even when the LNC is giving opinions that look unfavorable for the defendant, he or she can still help the defense attorney identify what the problem areas are for the case.
Legal Nurse Consultants also read through long and meticulous depositions to create focused deposition digests, complete with summaries and references. These can be very valuable as a quick reference to the most important medical information to the case.
The goal of the Legal Nurse Consultant with any case is to serve as a knowledge bridge for the attorney. We want to make the attorney’s cases simpler and more cost effective, by using our clinical expertise to complement the legal team’s legal expertise. If there is any way that we can help you, please feel free to contact us.
I'm Jennifer Pettigrew and, true story, I first became interested in Legal Nurse Consulting after my auto insurance company was sued following a car accident in which I was found to be at fault. I wasn't sued until after the statute of limitations was up but an exception was made and the plaintiff alleged that because of being rear-ended he was on pain medications chronically which caused him to develop diabetes and become blind. As a nurse I knew that Diabetic retinopathy cannot develop over the course of just a few years but rather is a complication that develops after several years of untreated or poorly treated diabetes. The case was settled by the insurance company before ever going to court for several million dollars, but from that point on I have been interested in the difference medical professionals could make in legal proceedings.