Nurses with an interest for both medical and legal issues may be a great asset for law offices–particularly those handling personal injury matters. Whether you are on the defense side or the plaintiff’s side, your practice can benefit from the advice of a good legal nurse consultant.
Legal nurse consultants use their healthcare knowledge in conjunction with an interest in the legal system to offer unique and valuable insight in this combined profession.
Legal nurse consultants are commonly called by both defense attorneys and plaintiff’s/prosecutors for their forensic or pharmacological familiarity to help determine difficult criminal or civil cases. More commonly, legal nurse consultants consult with attorneys and others in the legal field on medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and other healthcare-related cases. These legal specialists are responsible for interviewing clients, reviews medical records, researches and summarizes medical literature, helps evaluate liabilities and damages, assists with depositions, prepares exhibits, and identifies and retains expert witnesses. They are also incredibly useful for doing medical chronologies during fact investigation.
Legal nurse consultants are registered nurses who have previously worked in emergency rooms, or in other disciplines, who then take on focused training at legal nurse consulting schools. These schools offer on-campus or online nursing degree coursework in legal ethics, personal injury cases, forensic science, and legal writing to name a few. There are also dedicated classes in legal issues about medical malpractice, auto accident injury, lower back pain, and product liability.
Certified legal nurse consultants are regularly contracted to work with private attorneys and corporate lawyers. However, many find work outside the courtroom. Some take positions with hospitals, insurance companies, and government agencies. Many are hired to help provide quality assurance at pharmaceutical firms and chemical companies. About half of all legal nurse consultants work on staff at law firms, insurance companies and other institutions, and their salaries are often comparative to those of hospital nursing administrators. The other half of legal nurse consultants work independently.
The use of legal nurse consultants is expected to increase as more and more companies introduce medications and devices that are federally approved, or reviewed in the courtroom or by government agencies. While formal training in legal nurse consulting is not required, training and educational programs are available at universities, community colleges, and other private and public institutions.
A typical scenario: you’re a litigator or trial attorney preparing a case and you have a number of witnesses to depose, so you pick up the phone to call your trusty court reporter to arrange the depositions but have you considered the advantages of using a videographer at the same time?
Here are 9 good reasons to record a deposition on video:
1. If a key witness cannot attend a trial, a videotaped deposition can often be the next best thing. The judge and jury are not only able to listen to the witness, but also see the witness at the same time. They can pick up on nonverbal communication that would often be critical on the stand: body language, hesitancy, vocal inflections, demeanor, volume, etc. None of these cues are available in a standard transcribed deposition.
2. Expert witnesses are often ideal candidates for video depositions. Because they are used to acting as experts, they generally know the right things to say, project an air of intelligence, are usually predictable, and are excellent at following lines of questioning. A good expert can convey an authority that surpasses the written transcript of a deposition.
3. Expert witnesses can be expensive to call to testify in person. A video recorded deposition is often the best alternative. It’s cheaper, and the power of the witness is preserved because the demeanor and speech of the subject is on full display for the jury.
4. Under the right circumstances, using a video deposition to present background and foundational testimony improves the flow of evidence, eliminates calling witnesses out of order, and improves clarity to the jury.
5. Video depositions are more “interesting” to jury members. Juries are used to watching television and online video (who isn’t, really?). Therefore, they are predisposed to pay more attention to video than simply listening to someone read a deposition transcript. Oddly enough, sometimes seeing it “online” or “on TV” can feel more real than if the deponent were actually in the courtroom.
6. Video depositions can now be easily stored on a laptop, hard drive, or even a flash drive and used at trial. Because the testimony is digital, any moment of the deposition can be instantly accessed and projected in the courtroom. And if the witness contradicts himself in court, the original deposition can be easily retrieved and used to discredit the new testimony.
7. Sometimes a particularly damaging video deposition can precipitate a settlement. If the witness is particularly hostile or rude or refuses to answer questions over and over, the opposing attorney can be in an overwhelming position of strength and can negotiate a settlement before trial.
8. A picture is worth a thousand words. Studies show that jury members retain information up to six times longer when seeing witnesses and hearing them speak, rather than merely hearing a transcript read aloud in court. As the expression goes, “Seeing is believing.”
9. The opposing attorney may use video in court, causing you to appear “out of date” and out of touch with current technology. To be competitive, you need to use an arsenal of modern weapons in the courtroom. With today’s audio/visual technology, a video deposition is merely one of these advanced video weapons.
As you can see, a video deposition can be a powerful tool in the courtroom and offers many advantages to transcribed depositions. Consider booking a videographer at the same time you schedule your deposition. You just may be glad you did.
But wait…here’s 1 scenario where you might want to avoid a video deposition
That said, there’s one situation where you might want to reconsider the video deposition. Personal injury attorneys will understand this one: When you have a deponent who has lost someone, you might not want their raw tears and emotion on video. In those situations, it may behoove you to stick with your court reporter’s transcript and avoid visual recordings, if possible (but if your opposing counsel is any good, they will cross-notice the deposition and bring a videographer of their own).