Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Different Kind of Care Number of Legal Nurses Consultants Growing Steadily

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Different Kind of Care Number of Legal Nurses Consultants Growing Steadily

Article excerpt

As more and more nurses move away from caring for patients, one of the ways they are putting their skills to work is helping attorneys with cases involving medical issues.

One local company, Medical Review & Analysis Inc., provides medical consulting to attorneys, helping them review case files involving medical claims, including malpractice and personal injury. The company is run by Geraldine Johnson and Nancy Ellington, who review nearly 250 cases a year.

Legal nurse consultants can help both prosecutors and defense attorneys determine whether an injury was preexisting and not related to the suit, or if a doctor gave proper care. They also help attorneys come up with questions to ask expert medical witnesses during the trial.

The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants said its membership has grown steadily each year since 1989, to 3,700 members this year.

In Jacksonville, the local chapter has 56 members, but Johnson said maybe a dozen of them actually work full time as independent consultants. She was not sure how many consultants were employed by law firms citywide.

Many nurses turn to legal consulting for the higher salaries. In Jacksonville, Ellington said legal nurses can make between $75 and $100 an hour reviewing a case and $150 to $250 an hour for testifying as an expert witness. For comparison, an operating room nurse with five years experience can expect to make about $19 an hour.

While the national association has been around for a decade, Johnson said most attorneys are unaware of legal nurse consultants, but when they discover them, the lawyers are repeat users.

"It is a very hot item these days," she said.

Howard Maltz, an assistant general counsel with the city, didn't use legal nurse consultants until he joined the general counsel's office three years ago. He works with Johnson on personal injury cases.

"They have really steered me in the right direction on cases," he said, adding he now uses consultants on about 50 percent of his cases.

On cases that he thought the city couldn't win, Maltz said, Johnson helps put him on course, which ends up saving the case for the city. In other instances, Johnson has told him that the city couldn't win and Maltz said he then tries to settle out of court.

"They have saved the taxpayers money on cases," he said.

Legal nurses are either employed by an attorney's firm, do outsourcing work or are independent witnesses, said Bob Spohrer, a local plaintiff's attorney.

"They are key members of the trial team involving medical issues," he said.

Spohrer has been using nurse consultants for the past 20 years. His firm employs two nurses, but he also uses independent firms and witnesses.

"In most firms involving complex personal injury litigation, nurse consultants wear several hats. …

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