Undoubtedly medical malpractice attorneys require the aid of medical professionals. The costs are considerable (discussed below). Yet Medical-legal consultants are an integral part of the legal team. They assist attorneys with the complicated medical aspects of their cases. They have inside knowledge gained from the years spent working in the medical field. May legal firms are left with the questions as to whom they should hire (physician or nurse), contractor, or employee.
A variety of medical professionals are medical-legal consultants. They include nurses, physicians, and physician assistants. They can all play a role in patient care, and all bring their unique skillset to the legal field. One advantage to hiring independent contractors is that you can select the discipline that applies best to a specific case. There are occasions where a nurse is best suited, just as there are occasions where a physician is better suited. For larger and complex cases, both or more may be required..
All of these professionals may have a combination of degrees such as a nurse attorney (JD, RN), physician assistant- attorney (JD, PA), physician attorney (JD, MD/DO), or legal nurse consultant (LNC) to name a few.
A medical-legal consultant can be an invaluable tool for medical malpractice, personal injury, nursing home negligence, or any area where the legal and medical worlds collide. The consultant can help save the busy attorney time and money by focusing the attorney on the most important aspects of the case.
What Does A Medical-Legal Consultant Do?
The consultant can do a variety of things to assist an attorney with their case. To list a few, the consultant can educate the attorney on the complex medical issues arising in the case, organize the medical record, create a chronology and report of the relevant facts in the case, screen the case for merit, and assist locating an expert.
Chronologies can be used in a variety of ways to include getting the facts in an organized, chronological manner that references the page in the chart where the relevant document was found. The chronology can then be used as a tool during depositions to quickly find a point in the chart where the fact arose. They can also assist an expert witness with their review of the medical record by providing a concise report of the events, skipping over the unimportant material, while referencing back to the medical record so the expert can review the entire record for a more in depth analysis if desired.
The chronology can then be used as a tool during depositions to quickly find a point in the chart where the fact arose.
Understand the Standard of Care
In medical malpractice, the cases hinge on whether a health care professional was negligent in treating or failing to treat a patient. It is important to understand the negligence standard of care as applicable in medical malpractice. Negligence is conduct that falls below the standard recognized by law to act as a reasonably prudent person in the same or similar circumstances. For a case to succeed, there must be a duty that was breached which is the cause of the harm to the plaintiff.
There is a special duty for health care providers known as the medical professional standard of care that requires the medical professional (doctor, mid-level provider, nurse etc.) to act with the level of skill and knowledge commonly possessed by members of their profession in good standing within their community.
This standard is measured by comparing the provider’s conduct with that of a reasonably competent and skilled health care professional, with a similar background, in the same medical community, and under the same or similar circumstances.
This standard is usually established by expert testimony. However, the medical consultant has knowledge of the general standards and can point the attorney in the right direction.
After a thorough examination of the medical record, the medical-legal consultant can provide an opinion-whether or not it is likely that the standard has been breached, which provider was involved, what they did (or didn’t do) that likely breached the standard, and what damages resulted from the breach.
Furthermore, they usually have numerous connections in the medical community whom they can ask for guidance on the standard of care for a particular specialty and can assist with locating an expert to comment and testify on the conduct that caused the breach.
Distinguish Old from New Injuries
Personal injury cases may have multiple injuries. Furthermore, clients often have a history of prior injuries, sometimes to the same part of the body that is in question for their current lawsuit.
The medical-legal consultant can meticulously comb through both the old and new medical records and detect what injuries are old and what are injuries are new.
This helps determine damages by distinguishing which injuries should be compensated due to the recent accident and which are old and therefore not eligible for recovery.
Independent Contractor Medical Consultants – Advantages and Disadvantages
Law firms often prefer to hire medical-legal consultant contractors. An independent contractor arrangement may be favored if you don’t necessarily need continuous medical consulting. This should be included in your calculus.
There are advantages: (costs discussed below)
- Although you usually pay more per job or per hour, you will most likely save money overall since you aren’t required to pay them any benefits and do not need to commit to a salary.
- You have greater flexibility. When you work with an independent contractor and it isn’t a good match, you simply don’t hire them again. When you have an employee that doesn’t work out, you may need to fire them, which isn’t always easy.
- You can hire the right person for the task needed.
- They often have many years of experience, so you don’t need to train them.
- They are responsible for their own permits and professional license.
- Independent contractors are responsible for their own liability.
Cost Considerations – In house vs. Contractor
If considering in-house medical personnel, be certain to compare the costs of hiring and maintaining an employee vs. hiring an independent contractor. The true cost of hiring can be deceptive.
A reasonable estimation is that the true cost of an employee is two-times the employee’s salary.
An excellent article on the subject is entitled “The Real Cost Calculator.”
The differential is referred to as “the hidden paycheck.”
With a contractor, you know upfront what the costs are. Often you can charge against the client’s account. You don’t pay insurance, sick days, vacation days, retirement benefits, or for anything other than the hourly rate. You pay no income tax, social security, medicare taxes or unemployment tax. The contractor is responsible for his taxes. Possible bonus
When you make a less-than-desirable hire, you must deal with the drain on your business resources, including the time and effort it takes to terminate them and secure another, better-qualified replacement.
There are a variety of ways a medical legal consultant can be of assistance to your legal practice as illustrated by the few examples above. There are a number of other services that they can provide; too numerous to discuss all in one post. These professionals can be a valuable asset to many law firms whether in house or as an independent contractor.
Joseph Grillo, M.D. Medical-Legal Consulting
You get the expertise of an experienced, licensed, practicing board-certified physician who is also an attorney – at a cost guaranteed below what it would cost you to hire in-house medical personnel.
I would like to earn your business. Allow me to be your trusted employee! Established in 2018, I began consulting while in law school. Since then, I’ve worked with a number of clients and have helped many to win significant settlements. I can do the same for you.
We have purposefully kept our fees reasonable allowing you to consult with us without concern about budgetary issues in the case. In many cases, we can optimize your medical issues in just a few hours.
See how a medical-legal consultant can help save you time and money by putting us to work for you on your next case. Contact us to schedule a free consultation!
Make our team your team today…