Fighting Fire with Fire: How a Legal Nurse Consultant Can Help Defend Medical Malpractice Claims
Medical malpractice claims in 2015 were on the rise for the second year in a row. In 2014, $3.8 billion in payouts were awarded to claimants and plaintiffs alleging malpractice, according to Diederich Healthcare. Malpractice claims exceeded $713 million for New York State alone. Altogether, the quantity of claims increased 4.4 percent compared to 2013 — the second increase in two years.
Many malpractice insurers are hemorrhaging money as a result of these claims. One method they can try to reduce the size of settlements is to consult a legal nurse to analyze the data and determine whether the damages are to the extent the claimant alleges.
A growing numbers of plaintiffs are already using this same tact to increase the size of their claims. Legal nurse consultants were able to analyze data and case histories in order to bolster the claimant’s argument for a larger settlement. Without a legal nurse consultant of their own, many defense attorneys representing insurance carriers were unable to counter the compelling evidence set forth by the plaintiff.
Now, insurance carriers are recognizing the need for a legal nurse consultant in order to ensure a more accurate and complete analysis of the case’s circumstances. Defense attorneys who do not keep pace with this trend will soon find themselves outmatched in a profession that concerns itself exclusively with persuasive matters of fact.
Legal Nurse Consultants Make Worthy Opposition
In the legal consulting world, each side does their best to examine the case in an objective manner while still singling out the details that can benefit the client they are helping represent. A single expert witness for the plaintiff can clinch the outcome in their favor.
Meghan D’Angelo was one such clincher. She was once called in to provide an objective confirmation on whether or not a hospital followed protocol. Her plaintiff, who was tragically deceased, had died as a result of complications from falling out of bed. The plaintiff’s family and representing lawyer simply wanted to know if the hospital had breached protocol by allowing the patient’s bed rails to be left down.
What she found went far deeper than bed rails. As D’Angelo analyzed the case report and medical records, she discovered that the patient was given the wrong dose of a medication that had sedating side effects — twice. She also noticed that the nursing staff did not exercise their full diligence when performing the patient’s assessment.
This discovery transformed D’Angelo’s role from a one-note confirmation to a full-blown consultant who worked with the case for two months. “We’re looking from a high level down to a detailed level,” D’Angelo told the Daily Record. “I’ll say, ‘Look, let’s not only focus on what happened at the bedside, but also, were the hospital policies and procedures followed?’”
Countering Knowledge with Knowledge
No one can say for certain, but it is likely that the defense attorney was dumbfounded upon D’Angelo’s discovery. Without a legal nurse consultant of their own, they could have easily been blindsided by the information and not in a strong enough position to dispute the findings.
Having a legal nurse at your side allows your case to respond in a tit-for-tat manner with the plaintiff’s own expert consultant. Many nuances and complex details surrounding patient medical records could make the typical paralegal’s head spin. A legal nurse, though, can respond in kind and work to bring a full spectrum of opinions and findings to the defense.
In fact, a legal nurse consultant can come into play countless times during a discovery and case-building period. The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants outlines an entire process that can be extremely difficult for someone without a medical background to handle.
Even if your case is not going to litigation or your claimant has not consulted a legal nurse of their own, relying on a legal nurse could potentially save insurers thousands or more. Many insurers are already recommending that attorneys hire legal nurse consultants in order to view the claim from a professional standpoint.
To make sure that your legal team does not get out of their depth and can keep settlements as low as possible, strongly consider the increasingly-common recommendation of insurers and hire a legal nurse to bolster your case. Your client just might not be able to afford for you not to.