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Certified Legal Nurse Consultant Turns Thousands of Pages of Records Into "A Picture Worth a 1,000 Words"
When an attorney takes on a medical-related lawsuit, the attorney is confronted with enormous volumes of medical records crammed with esoteric terminology, inexplicable shorthand and indecipherable handwriting. Yet his client's (plaintiff or defense) future depends on the attorney understanding those records and using them to support the case effectively. That's why Certified Legal Nurse Consultant services are the healthiest thing that will ever happen to an attorney's practice.
Total confidence in the services and support provided by a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant is especially important when taking on a formidable opponent, such as a major international corporation. Bob Young, an attorney with English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, a major personal injury firm in south central Kentucky, faced this challenge when he accepted the case of Heather Norman.*
In 2001, the 12-year-old was severely burned in a motor vehicle accident that killed her mother and brother. "The truck's side-saddle gasoline tanks exploded upon impact," Young says, "leaving Heather with second and third degree burns over 25% of her body, including her back, chest, arms, hands and face. She had three surgeries to receive skin grafts and underwent numerous other medical procedures. She spent three weeks in the hospital, plus more than a month as an out patient receiving daily wound care and occupational therapy." Young filed a products liability suit against the truck manufacturer on Heather's behalf.
Medical cases like this can generate thousands of pages of records. "If I try to sift through the records and put together a summary," says Young, "it might or might not be accurate. I'm not trained in the medical field. It makes sense to have someone with medical training go through the records and decipher the important information."
Young uses the services of Gina Rogers, RN, CLNC for cases like Heather's. "My assignment," says Rogers, "was to document this child's pain and suffering. In addition to summarizing the records, I decided 'a picture is worth a thousand words.' I created a detailed graph of her body indicating all the burns and skin grafts. My completed graph showed that there was hardly an undamaged place on her body."
"Two major factors in this case," says Young, "were the enormous pain and suffering Heather had to deal with and the problems she would face in the future. Gina set forth all the pain medications my client received during the three weeks she was in the hospital. Gina also prepared a detailed list of Heather's potential future health problems."
Instead of sending the defendant thousands of pages of medical records, Young sent them Gina's report, including the dramatic graph of the plaintiff's injuries. "Gina's work was a significant part of the settlement brochure," he says. The case settled for an undisclosed amount.
Consulting an Independent Certified Legal Nurse Consultant Is Like Having a Nurse on Staff Without the Full-time Expense – For the last three years Young has used Rogers' services on almost every medical-related case. "It's like having a nurse on staff without the full-time expense," he says. "The most important thing Gina does is help me screen each case to see if it's worth taking. In every medical malpractice case you have to retain a medical doctor to testify to the standards of care. After Gina reviews the case, we discuss whether to retain a very expensive MD. Often we decide not to take that next step. If we do take the case, Gina has a network of doctors so she helps me find the expert, too."
*Name has been changed.
About the Author: Vickie L. Milazzo, RN, MSN, JD is the founder and president of Vickie Milazzo Institute, a legal nurse consultant training and certification company.