Many lay people have heard of Class Action lawsuits, and some have heard of Mass Torts. While both are designed to reduce the number of court cases in the system, Mass Tort lawsuits are different from Class Action law suits. Mass tort claims must be handled differently, covering a much broader range of claim types. Typically Mass Tort claims are brought when consumers are injured by pharmaceutical drugs, medical devices and/or other products. Drugs, medical devices and product defects can cause a wide range of problems for different individuals, so all cases usually do not fit into a single class.
Mass Tort Defined
Mass tort litigation lets one attorney or groups of attorneys represent several injured parties in individual cases. Any information discovered during investigation by one attorney can be shared among all attorneys and cases. A nationwide network of lawyers can pool resources, information and ideas to ensure all individuals receive fair settlements for their injuries.
Mass Tort lawsuits are usually more complex than class action lawsuits because the way they are structured does not necessarily follow standard legal procedure. And the large number of claims that are brought during the suit, can make it difficult to determine settlements and compensation. Any mass tort litigation would require the requesting, collection, and expert review for large numbers of medical records, charts, doctors’ notes, etc. Using in house resources to manage and track these electronic medical records would be both time-consuming and cost prohibitive.
Introducing the Legal Nurse Consultant
Add to this number the sheer volume of paper records still in use, and the medical records retrieval process can become a bottleneck for mass tort attorneys. There is a better choice. By partnering with a Legal Nurse Consultant (LNC) the review and management of the records, the in-house legal staff can focus on other areas of the litigation. By having an LNC close by to review data, it frees up paralegals, associates, and otherwise billable staff. The LNC is a reliable, experienced, and uniquely trained partner for law firms involved in mass torts to be able to manage costs and maximize their in-house staff. The LNC has the expertise to identify omissions and commissions in medical records quickly. In addition, the LNC understands how to be following HIPAA guidelines and treat all client/patient information appropriately.
The Legal Nurse Consultant is qualified to a natural extension of your legal staff. When dealing with large numbers of potential clients involved in a mass tort litigation, lead attorneys may expect to rely exclusively on in-house personnel. This can be an expensive mistake because it diverts attention from current work in progress for other clients to serve and assist on the larger mass tort case. This can result in both upset clients whose cases are “in-flight” or being processed, and frustrated staff being asked to divide their time between two matters.
Medical Records and the LNC
Gathering mass tort medical records can be extremely time consuming. However, having the LNC resource virtually eliminates the extra step of coordinating collection and review. The LNC knows how to inspect records to clearly differentiate between injury associated with the mass tort claim, and previous illness or injuries which may be raised by the defense. When expert witness testimony is required, the LNC maintains a current list of reliable resources that the firm can depend upon. The alternative is often seeking retired physicians who may not be trained on the technology which can be part of the mass tort medical device case.
Summary: The Legal Nurse Consultant should be a natural extension of any firm litigating a mass tort case. LNCs have both the medical training and the legal know-how to quickly assess patient records. They also have the experience to identify related and unrelated injuries as the firm assesses the impact to clients. Finally, the LNC maintains an up-to-date list of expert witness contacts to assist the firm in court.
Shaun Sever is the founder of SP and Associates Legal Nurse consultants. To learn more about Shaun and her practice visit www.splegalnurse.com or contact Shaun at 517-256-5011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.