Contrary to popular belief, plaintiff attorneys don’t pursue every medical malpractice case that comes through the door. They have to be selective because they only make money if they win or settle the case. Considering a plaintiff attorney will invest $100,000-$200,000 to get a case to trial, losing is a pricey proposition. The more successful the attorney, the more selective he will be about the threshold level of damages he’ll expect to recover in the case.
When an attorney-client hires you to screen a medical malpractice case, he is not expecting you to automatically conclude that the case is meritorious. In fact, sometimes the attorney is looking for just the opposite – an opinion that the case is not meritorious.
Certified Legal Nurse Consultant Carolyn Bilodeau, RN, BSN, MS, CLNC, shares an example: “An attorney hired me to screen a case involving the emergency room care of a 42-year-old woman who was treated and sent home. She returned to the hospital in less than 24 hours and subsequently died within three weeks of complications of ARDS. In my opinion the case was not meritorious. There was no evidence of breach of duty or causation. When I discussed my opinion with the attorney, he was relieved. I learned that he wanted to tell the prospective client that the standard of care had been satisfied and there were no grounds for a lawsuit, but was not comfortable communicating this fact without my CLNC® opinion.”
When screening a medical-related case as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant, never assume the attorney has an opinion about the case or wants to hear from you that the case is meritorious. Do assume the attorney always wants an honest, objective opinion on the merits of the case. After all, big dollars are at stake – both ways.
I’m Just Sayin’
P.S. Comment here and share your experiences in advising your attorney-clients that a case wasn’t meritorious.