By: Carol Wells RN MBA, LNC, Paralegal
Hello there, TPS readers! Carol is back to give us an extensive education regarding Legal Nurse Consultants and their role within the legal system. Perhaps you already know what they do in the land of legal or perhaps you don’t, but either way, your crash course on the role of the LNC begins…right now!
So indulge in that paralegal power breakfast, which likely consists of some random, desk drawer item, like a pack of cold, cherry Pop Tarts or a granola bar boasting a lovely abundance of chocolate chips, and that iced cold Diet Coke or piping hot mug of coffee, and become enlightened. What more could someone ask of you on a Wednesday than to become awake and enlightened? (Don’t worry, we won’t ask your attorney boss that question!)
According to the AALNC (www.aalnc.org) website, the role of the LNC is diverse. A Legal Nurse Consultant can help a case in may ways and can help many different types of cases. From acting as a liaison between legal professionals, medical professionals, and clients; the LNC can screen cases for validity, educate the legal team regarding case issues, research key points to assist in the accumulation of evidence, obtain, review, and analyze records; prepare summaries, chronologies, and exhibits; define standards of care applicable to cases of negligence; and provide support in the development of questioning in depositions, discovery, trials, and other proceedings.
Formation of Legal Nurse Consulting as a Specialty
In 1980, two cases (Avret v. McCormick and Maloney v. Wake Hospital Systems) were instrumental in illustrating the importance of using specialized Nurses as expert witnesses in Nursing negligence cases. Originally in both cases, the sitting Judges refused to use Nurses as expert witnesses, and went in what was then the traditional route of using Physicians. Both judgments went to appeals court, and both times the Appellate Judges were of the opinion that Nursing experience differed from medical experience and therefore expert Nurse witnesses should be used instead. Law Firms then began to hire Nurses as in house consultants and or use them as independent consultants. In 1989, the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants was formed and gained recognition by the American Association of Nurses as a distinct specialty, which was certifiable by exam. Nurses who have passed this specialty exam use the designation of LNCC or Legal Nurse Consultant Certified.
How do LNC’s differ from Nurse Paralegals or Paralegals in general?
The most obvious difference is the type of cases LNC’s work on and the fact that they are licensed Nurses. Paralegal expertise lies solely within the legal system, whereas the LNC’s expertise is within the Medical and Nursing community. LNC’s have been trained in some aspects of the legal system, but are primarily used as consultants on healthcare and medical issues. Nurse Paralegals have obtained Paralegal training, which provides additional responsibilities in a case. Although LNC’s have obtained some legal training, most accumulate their working legal case knowledge on the job.
How can LNC’s help?
Primarily, LNC’s evaluate cases for merit and provide informed opinions on whether care given resulted in harm. Their role is as a collaborator and to assist in case strategy. Areas of practice include personal injury, product liability, medical malpractice, workers comp, toxic torts, criminal law, civil law, etc. Most importantly for the Nursing profession, the Legal Nurse Consultant can offer services as an expert witness.
LNC’s help by focusing on the medical aspect of the case. They can assist both the Attorney and the Paralegal in determining what is worth focusing on, how events lead to the client coming into the office, and whether the case has merit. As the case progresses, the LNC can assist in obtaining appropriate expert opinions on how the event has effected the client and what the client can expect in the future, in some cases in terms of quality of life. The LNC, as well as, the Nurse Paralegal, can be an invaluable resource when working in health care focused cases.
Conklin, M. & Jeffries, K. (2006), Nurse paralegal/legal nurse consultant: similar work product. What is the Controversy? Journal of legal nurse consulting, 17, 1, 21-22.
Dickinson, J., (2011), The origin and evolution of legal nurse consultants, Journal of Legal Nurse Consulting, 22, 2, 3-7
What is an LNC? From the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants website (www.aalnc.org)
Carol Wells has been a Nurse for over 30 years with experience in diverse areas. She became a Legal Nurse Consultant in 2007 & a Paralegal in 2011.
Be sure to check out Carol’s blog, Leftist Moderate Speak, which features political discussions about healthcare topics at: www.leftistmoderatespeak.com.
A special thanks to Carol for sharing this informative piece with us!
We’ll see you next time! Until then, guard the esquire(s).