– June 17, 2010
Lowering expert costs are simple if you just send only the information needed
I have been a medical expert for both the plaintiff and the defense for more than 40 years in various states. I am amazed at the volume of unnecessary medical records and other material sent to experts for review. Once I receive them I have to spend numerous hours, at considerable expense to lawyers and insurance carriers, wading through pages of irrelevant information and quite often duplicates of material.
How can this be avoided? How can this unnecessary expense be reduced? How can this process be streamlined and made more efficient? The following are some suggestions:
- The lawyer or insurance carrier is aware of the plaintiff’s complaints and should restrict material initially sent to the expert to the time frame of the alleged malpractice event. This may consist of anything from one page, when an incorrect dose or procedure was the cause of the malpractice suit, or a longer time frame if that is warranted, or to the particular admission in which the malpractice event took place.
- The lawyer should send the pertinent pages of the medical record on the event with necessary back-up material, e.g., pertinent laboratory, radiological or pathological reports, or pertinent focused nursing notes or flow sheets.
- All other material, e.g., medical records of previous unrelated admissions and duplicative or irrelevant information should be culled from the record and not sent to the expert. The appropriate culling of the record can be done by trained para-legal personnel at considerable less expense compared to this being done by the medical expert. This will expedite the process and be more cost-effective.
- The medical expert should then request focused information to conclude his evaluation and report.
- If the case is to be settled (and I believe that 90% of them are) then this is all that should be required.
- Should the case go to trial, and should it be necessary, additional records can be sent to the medical expert for review in preparation for trial.
The costs to defend malpractice has been rising for years (see my post – Medical Malpractice Report Shows Increased Severity Despite Lower Frequency) and this is really a practical idea to help lower those costs. Once an expert receives the entire file they will be obligated to review the material. This suggestion need not be limited to just medical experts and can be used in a variety of cases where experts are retained. Experts are an expensive, necessary, part of the process, and looking for new ways to lower those costs are a good thing.