Memorable CLNC® Cases

My “Stand and Deliver” Mentality Won Me New Confidence as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant and Won My Attorney-Client a Big Settlement*

by Kaye Miller, RN, CLNC

My first case as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant is complete and there are plenty of things that made it memorable. After I became a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant, a plaintiff attorney asked me to be a testifying expert on a slip and fall case. Serving as a testifying expert is not what I had in mind for my CLNC® career, but I took a deep breath and adopted a “stand and deliver” mentality.

The attorney said that it was unusual to get such a high settlement for a slip and fall case, but my ‘invaluable’ information played a large role in the decision.

First, I reviewed the records and found them incomplete. The attorney was surprised at this discovery and, I think, a little embarrassed that this had happened. He told me about the forthcoming depositions and the trial date, which was set for August.

As I learned from Vickie, I started my preparation: I ordered my power suit and started taking note of my speaking voice, posture and eye contact. I reread Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking and The Positive Principle Today. I reviewed the Core Curriculum for Legal Nurse Consulting® textbook.

At my first formal meeting with my attorney-client in June, I pointed out the strengths and weaknesses of the case (as Vickie taught us in the CLNC Certification Program). I had found plenty of important points to discuss with him.

  1. I told my client that the attorney defending the insurance company might ask why the surgeon waited ten days after the documented “burst fracture” to do surgery and what effect that decision had on the patient’s outcome.
  2. I raised the issue of patient compliance. Why did the patient refuse to sign the consent for a blood transfusion? The answer: This was against her religion.
  3. I alerted my attorney-client that the patient underwent six hours of general anesthesia. I took the opportunity to teach him that being “put to sleep” means almost the same thing as putting a dog to sleep, only in human surgery the ET tube provides air to keep the patient alive. The attorney took note of this.
  4. I highlighted the documented PCA administration before and after surgery and its results (not good).
  5. I noted the “plea” (my attorney-client liked that word) from physical therapy for suggestions from the physician that would enable the patient to place her own back brace. (The therapists had tried everything, but ten days after surgery the patient was still in too much pain to do this unassisted.)
  6. I made note of the following anecdote as a character reference for the patient: when she arrived at the rehab hospital, she had $100 in cash, which they offered to place with security. The record documented that she said, “If somebody steals it, they need it more than I do.”

Approximately two weeks after my meeting with the attorney, the case settled for $490,000. Since workers’ compensation paid dollar for dollar, the settlement covered every medical, rehab, physician and prescription bill.

Both the patient and my attorney-client were thrilled. The attorney said that it was unusual to get such a high settlement for a slip and fall case, but my “invaluable” information played a large role in the decision. He thanked me and said that he would spread my name and that he would be calling me again.

This experience as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant gave me the confidence to pound the pavement and seek other cases, not something I was looking forward to before. Now, I can’t wait to get out there.

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