The Certified Legal Nurse Consultant – An Attorney’s Secret Weapon

The Tragedy

Late one Friday afternoon Susan, RN, BSN, CLNC received a call from an insurance defense attorney asking her to review a plaintiff’s medical records. On Monday morning, with the deposition just 24 hours away, the attorney sent Susan four volumes of medical records documenting ten years of the plaintiff’s medical history.

Here are the facts of the case:

1. The defendant had agreed to be the designated driver when she and a group of friends went out partying.

2. On the way home from the second bar the defendant driver, who had not been drinking, hit a tree.

3. Everyone except the plaintiff had on seat belts and walked away from the accident.

4. The unrestrained plaintiff suffered a fractured vertebra that was repaired surgically.

5. He claimed the injuries sustained in the accident totally disabled him and were the sole cause of his weakness, fatigue and inability to work.

Certified Legal Nurse Consultant’s Analysis Revealed a Very Different Picture

Few attorneys know how to read medical records or understand the terminology and subtleties of healthcare issues to achieve the best results for their clients. A Certified Legal Nurse Consultant bridges that gap in the attorney’s knowledge. While the attorney is the expert on legal issues, the CLNC® consultant is the expert on nursing, the healthcare system and its inner workings.

In this case, the Certified Legal Nurse Consultant’s grasp of the plaintiff’s pre-existing conditions enabled her to discover that his claims of injury were suspect. His extensive medical file revealed:

– He had a long history of HIV and had complained of fatigue on several occasions.

– Prior to the accident he was on AZT, Combivir and Bacofen. These medications have
numerous side effects, including weakness, fatigue, headaches, dizziness and muscle breakdown.

– He had chronic hepatitis, which also contributed to his weakness, fatigue and malaise.

– Because of the hepatitis, his treating doctor had documented that the plaintiff was not to drink. Yet his blood alcohol level was significantly elevated when he arrived at the emergency room following the accident.

Services Offered By Certified Legal Nurse Consultants That Help Attorneys

In addition to reviewing medical records, Certified Legal Nurse Consultants:

– Identify applicable standards of care

– Develop case chronologies and timelines

– Prepare summaries of the extent of injury or illness

– Conduct research on various case issues

– Locate expert witnesses

…and many other services.

In this case, Susan interpreted the records, prepared an in-depth review of the plaintiff’s pre-existing conditions, wrote deposition questions, attended the deposition and helped prepare the attorney for mediation.

The straightforward questions she proposed came directly from her basic nursing assessment skills. Despite their simplicity, the attorney considered them strokes of genius.

During deposition the plaintiff stated that prior to the accident he was fine and had no complaints. Armed with the Certified Legal Nurse Consultant’s report, the defense attorney was well prepared to dispute this testimony. He used her questions to draw out inconsistencies in the plaintiff’s story:

1. Describe the onset, location, duration and severity of your pain.

2. When did these symptoms start?

3. Did you have any of these problems before the accident?

Certified Legal Nurse Consultant Saved Defendant Millions of Dollars on Settlement

Mediation was set for the next day. The plaintiff attorney stated that his client was severely injured during this accident and the defendant was responsible. He demanded $5,000,000 from the defendant above the $500,000 policy limits.
In response, the defense attorney clearly related the plaintiff’s ongoing complaints to his long history of HIV and hepatitis, the side effects of his medications and his noncompliance with his physician’s orders. As Susan had discovered, these facts had been documented in the medical record long before the accident, and his complaints were therefore not solely the result of the accident.

At this point the plaintiff attorney blurted out, “This case has been in my office for two years, and this is the first time I’ve heard this information.” He obviously had not used the services of a Certified Legal Nurse consultant.

The case settled for $10,000, a pittance compared to the initial $5,000,000 demand. “It was extremely satisfying,” Susan commented, “knowing my nursing expertise helped the defendant save millions.”

The Certified Legal Nurse Consultant Is a Specialized Member of the Litigation Team

As in this case, a Certified Legal Nurse consultant’s professional contributions are often critical to achieving a fair and just outcome for all parties. They have consulted on cases as simple as a neck injury caused by an auto accident, as high-profile as the Rodney King case and as groundbreaking as Fen-Phen, Vioxx, silicone implants and toxic mold litigation.

Attorneys rely on Certified Legal Nurse Consultants for a variety of medical-related cases including medical malpractice, personal injury, products liability, toxic tort, workers’ compensation and criminal.

Susan lives in a rural area and works from home with attorneys from several states. Certified Legal Nurse Consultants practice all over the U.S. Wherever there are attorneys, CLNC® services are needed. According to the American Bar Association, 1,116,967 attorneys are in practice today. Approximately 25 percent of these attorneys deal with medical malpractice and personal injury cases and could use a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant as their secret weapon.

Additionally, Certified Legal Nurse Consultants provide healthcare expertise for insurance companies, utilization review firms, government agencies, private corporations and hospitals both as staff members and consultants.

Certified Legal Nurse Consultants regularly report earning fees of $150 per hour. The legal nurse consulting profession allows nurses many options for establishing a satisfying and profitable part-time or full-time consulting career.