Your plaintiff attorney client asked you to screen a nursing malpractice case for merit. You write a report that gives the facts, provides your opinions as to why the case lacks merit, and concludes by saying, “This case is a loser.”
Your client receives the report, decides not to pursue the claim, and mails the report to the plaintiff to confirm she had the case reviewed. When you pick up the phone, you hear an angry plaintiff berating you for your harshness. You listen, justify your opinions, become defensive and regret answering the phone. The plaintiff says, “I will tell everyone I know that this attorney hired a loser to review my case. And she is a loser herself!” Your relationship with your client is damaged because of this incident. OUCH!
How do you deliver bad news in a legal nurse consultant report?
Keep in mind that you have two audiences when you prepare a report like this: your client and her client. You know your client will read the report. You may not realize that her client might read it too.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars might be spent on a nursing malpractice case. It serves no one’s interest to tell an attorney what you think she wants to hear. If you are a people pleaser, you can create untenable situations with your expensive effort to please. Do you tell the harsh truth harshly or give into wishful thinking in an effort to please? Both approaches do damage.
Diplomatically delivering bad news in a legal nurse consultant report
Tell your clients the truth, but with diplomacy. We are often oblivious to the relationship between the plaintiff attorney and her client. They may be friends, neighbors, or even relatives. They may have had several conversations to get to know each other before the attorney sent you the case. Both the attorney and client may be convinced that the bad outcome was due to negligence. You are dashing cold water on their hopes.
Having a legal nurse consultant bedside manner is as important in our field as it is in medicine. If your delivery of bad news is gruff, the attorney may go elsewhere to have the next case evaluated.
Attorneys want to know you have performed a professional evaluation of a case. A report that provides hard and harsh facts, without expressing concern for the plaintiff, may leave the plaintiff seeking another attorney to start another round of questioning.
How to express concern in a legal nurse consultant report
Keep in mind that your goal is to soften the blow. Summarize the facts, and use qualifying phrases like unfortunate, it seems, it appears, based on the records I have. Sympathize with the plaintiff. Express distress over what happened to him and understanding about his feeling of betrayal. None of these softening phrases change your opinions, but they do make the report more palatable.
Anticipate the defense position by explaining how you think the defense would approach the case, and why that presents difficulties for the successful resolution of the claim. When you acknowledge the plaintiff’s feelings, it will make it easier for your client to see you in the reluctant role of devil’s advocate, and to accept your conclusions.
Pat Iyer MSN RN LNCC has written many reports that deliver bad news. She is the past president of the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC). Join her for a free webinar: Get More Clients With Your Top Notch Writing Skills. Get details here.