The Many Ways a Legal Nurse Consultant Can Serve as an Expert WitnessBy HG.org
A legal nurse consultant can help in litigation by serving as an expert witness. In this context, the legal nurse consultant can help analyze and explain information to the jury or trier of fact. Because of their important role, many law firms have a legal nurse consultant on their team. Others may choose to retain the services of a legal nurse consultant on an as-needed basis.
Background on Legal Nurse ConsultantsA legal nurse consultant helps lawyers with complex medical issues that may arise during the course of litigation. They may be hired to help with a variety of different types of cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury and others. They may educate lawyers about the acceptable standard of care in a given case. They may explain administrative procedures. They serve to explain the medical roles of various professionals so that the lawyer has a better understanding in the case.
Education of a Legal Nurse ConsultantLegal nurse consultants are typically registered nurses. They may also take certification courses and additional tests such as those provided by the American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board. Legal nurse consultant use their education and skills to interpret medical records and to summarize information in a concise manner.
Role of a Legal Nurse ConsultantA legal nurse consultant assists lawyers with complicated medical aspects of legal cases. They use their knowledge as a nurse and someone knowledgeable on medical matters to provide important information to lawyers behind the scenes. They may also provide advice about the most important issues on hand. In some cases, they may testify at trial to provide important information to a judge or jury. A legal nurse consultant may review a case for merit or interpret medical records. They may advise as to whether or not a lawyer should take on a given case.
A legal nurse consultant may help a lawyer prepare for trial in a case. This may include the legal nurse consultant preparing the lawyer for depositions, trial, arbitration, mediation hearings or review panels. These professionals may work for or with insurance companies, financial institutions and lawyers. They may work for employers in workers’ compensation settings and life care planning positions.
They may work as an employee, an independent consultant or as an independent worker on a case-by-case basis. There are differences between the roles of in-house employees versus independent contractors. For example, an in-house employee usually has regular hours and possibly benefits. An independent contractor may not have set hours and may be paid by project. An in-house employee is usually prevented from testifying though since there is an inherent conflict of interest. Independent consultants may work behind the scenes with lawyers on cases that are complex or deal with complicated medical issues.
Because these individuals are independent, they can often offer their professional services as a testifying expert witness. They may be an expert in a particular medical specialty such as ophthalmology or obstetrics. However, this usually requires the legal nurse consultant to retain full-time work in their particular specialty so that they will still retain their expert witness status. Being an expert witness requires the expert to have knowledge on the current industry and practice, so this usually requires expert witnesses to still be working in their primary field or to have recently worked in it.
A legal nurse consultant may also determine the proximate cause for client injuries, assess damages and assist with developing a strategy for the case. Due to their knowledge and experience, legal nurse consultants can understand, investigate and communicate information about health matters.
Standard of Care OpinionsOne of the most common reasons why a legal nurse consultant is retained is to give an opinion about the accepted standard of care in a case. In a negligence or medical malpractice case, the legal nurse consultant may explain why the healthcare provider’s conduct was or was not a breach of care. The legal nurse consultant analyzes a case to determine if there were errors or other acts that would rise to a breach of the standard of care.
Assistance from a Legal Nurse ConsultantIf you are working on a case involving medical matters and believe that you could use the help and guidance from a legal nurse consultant, it is important to consider the possibility of hiring an expert witness. He or she can provide important consulting information and may also be able to testify at trial.
While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.