Read these 7 Health Care Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Legal Jobs tips and hundreds of other topics.
Healthcare litigation sometimes encompasses a lot of time because of the number of documents that pass back and forth between the parties. Firms might hire litigation support firms to help with the litigation preparation process. Both litigation firms and litigation support firms retain experienced document review attorneys to review documents for content.
Documents must be exchanged between the parties during the discovery phase, but certain documents that fall under confidentiality laws are not discoverable. Those documents are separated from discoverable documents prior to sending the discovery package. A healthcare litigation support team might also help the lead attorney review incoming discoverable documents and categorize those documents so that they are easier to locate during settlement negotiations or trial.
A document review attorney is important to both types of firms, as the documents must be reviewed. Retaining a document review attorney allows the attorneys on the case to work on other matters within the case or to even work with or meet with other clients, thus saving the firm time and lowering the firm's and the client's costs.
Healthcare laws are put into place to protect patients and healthcare facilities. When something goes wrong, a patient might sue a healthcare facility or a healthcare facility might sue a patient, an insurance company, or even another health care facility. No matter the nature of the plaintiff(s) and defendant(s), documentation for medical lawsuits is copious. The documentation required in the discovery phase of a lawsuit must be reviewed prior to being sent to the other parties in the lawsuit.
Certain documents fall under confidentiality laws—most notably, correspondence between an attorney and the attorney's client. An experienced temporary document review attorney is often hired during the discovery phase of healthcare lawsuits. The document review attorney reviews documents for attorney-client privilege and other confidentiality matters. The documents are separated from the rest of the discovery, as they are not discoverable.
Document review attorneys may also be used to review documents that come in pursuant to discovery requests. Documents are reviewed and separated based on content.
Health care litigation can be very complex in that the plaintiff must prove it was harmed in a health care facility. This results in copious documents being exchanged between the parties. The parties are often extensive, even in a single-plaintiff case, because the plaintiff and defendant each have an attorney, the plaintiff's insurance company has an attorney, and the defendant's insurance company has an attorney.
Documentation includes all manner of documents, from medical records to financial records, but the most important documents are the medical records and documentation generated through investigations. Each health care case goes through a discovery process before a settlement is negotiated or before trial. In the discovery process all documents requested must be produced to the other party's attorney and the insurance companies' attorneys.
Before documents are produced, they must be examined for content. Documents that fall under certain confidentiality laws are not produced. The most common confidential documents are correspondence between the attorney and the attorney's client.
Health care lawyers work in the health care field—mostly with health care facilities and insurance companies. Whether the health care facility is a doctor's office, a hospital, or a nursing home, all are subject to malpractice and personal injury lawsuits. When a patient files a lawsuit against a health care facility, the lawsuit results in copious documents transferred from the plaintiff to the defendant. Generally, the patient has an attorney, the patient's insurance company has an attorney, the health care facility has an attorney, and the health care facility's insurance company has an attorney.
All documents provided by the parties are also provided to the insurance companies. The documents must be reviewed for attorney-client privilege issues and other confidentiality issues. Documents that fall under certain confidentiality rules are not discoverable and must be removed from any discovery packages.
Additionally, health care lawyers will send interrogatories and requests for admissions to the other parties, including the insurance companies. Interrogatories and requests for admissions often result in additional documentation being exchanged between the parties. These documents must also be reviewed for confidentiality matters.
A litigation support firm often uses experienced temporary attorneys to help review documents on extensive legal projects. Documents are reviewed for confidentiality issues before they are provided to the other party (or his or her attorney). The most common confidentiality issue is attorney-client privilege. Certain documents between an attorney and the attorney's client are not discoverable, and must be removed from the discovery documents.
In most health care cases, the documentation is extensive, whether the case is a personal injury vehicular accident case, a slip-and-fall, or a nursing home case. Experienced temporary attorneys are often retained to help review the extensive documents. Temporary attorneys are also retained to review incoming discovery for certain issues.
The temporary attorney saves the attorney(s) on the case time, which in turn is more cost-effective for the firm. Attorneys in a litigation support firm can accept more clients or work on other, more pressing litigation support matters.
Often, health care cases—personal injury cases—are extensive because of the number of documents involved. The bulk of the documents are financial, police, and medical records. When a plaintiff sues a defendant, especially if negligence is involved, the plaintiff expects to be paid for all medical bills and punitive damages.
During the discovery process, numerous documents are exchanged between the parties. Discoverable documents include most correspondence, medical records, police records (usually for vehicular accidents), investigation records, and financial records. In addition to the exchange of documents, at least one set of interrogatories are served. Requests for admissions are also served in most cases.
The documentation must be managed in such a way that confidential documents are not provided to the other party. It must also be managed so that documentation is easy to find during settlement negotiations or trial. Experienced temporary attorneys trained in document review are often retained to review the documents for content. The temporary attorney separates documents that should not be provided because of confidentiality issues or other issues as dictated by the attorney on the case.
A forensic document expert is often needed in personal injury cases and other cases that involve health care, as there are many medical records that are produced to attorneys during the discovery process. Because so much is at stake for both plaintiffs and defendants in these types of cases, a forensic document expert may be called in to authenticate signatures on documents and even the documents themselves. A forged document can cost a party that may be entitled to a large settlement a large portion of the settlement, if not the entire thing.
Effective forensic document experts have extensive training and experience in reviewing documents for inconsistencies. Authentication of a document includes making sure the document was not altered by adding or removing pages or sections, the signatures are original, and the printing device is consistent.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|