You’ve gotten a case as a nursing expert witness. Now what? What are your expert witness opinions?
Forming expert witness opinions
Read all of the pertinent documents before you offer an opinion. It is rare that a nursing expert witness has to read every page of a medical record, and most attorneys would not be willing to pay for the time to do so. It is up to the expert to know what to look for in the material.
You may get into the materials and find that there are pages missing. Maybe somebody copied every other page in the medical record. Maybe somebody put medical records in a box under a secretary’s desk and forgot that they were part of what needed to go out to the expert.
It is your job is to make sure that everything is complete before offering an expert witness opinion and talking to the attorney about the pros and cons.
Sharing your opinions
Typically the next thing that happens is that you have a phone call with the attorney to talk about the initial conclusions after reviewing all of the relevant information. In the discussion after you review the case, demonstrate your clinical experience and education and expertise.
Sometimes you will be reporting to a paralegal or legal nurse consultant, but more typically you will be commenting directly to the attorney. Sometimes attorneys become so convinced of the righteousness of their case that they become blind to another way of looking at it.
It’s your job to look at it objectively, to see the pros and the cons and to be able to help the attorney anticipate what the other side is going to say about this particular case.
Going forward with a weak case does a disservice to all the parties, so it’s important that you express expert witness opinions with the strength of your convictions.
Pat Iyer MSN RN LNCC is president of the Pat Iyer Group. She reviewed cases for 20 years as a liability expert witness and also served as an expert fact witness to summarize medical records. This material is from her book Honing Your Legal Nurse Consulting Skills.
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