A Life Care Planner in the Courtroom 

gavel on a pedestal

For a busy and experienced life care planner, the last months of the year can be particularly hectic. With any of the cases I am called to, there is the potential to go to trial. 

In November and December the BiFulco Medical Group often sees a strong push to resolve litigation. At the end of the year, people on both sides move to resolve these cases and get back to their regularly scheduled lives. 

It might surprise you to hear me talking about legal issues — after all, I am a doctor, not a lawyer. 

As a Rehabilitation Physician and Life Care Planner, there is very often a legal side to my work. At the end of the year, I am seeing my usual patients on a regular schedule and spending time in the courtroom or being deposed in a discovery deposition. In this post we will go into greater depth on the role of a life care planner in the courtroom.

In life care planning we are often asked to consult, evaluate, diagnose, and predict future care for cases at the center of pending litigation. It is a crucial element of my work. In simple terms, 2 parties have a disagreement. They may disagree over what caused an injury, or how severe the injuries are, for example. A life care planner provides an unbiased and expert point of view for either the  plaintiff or the defense. As a treating physician and medical expert witness, I see that this is an extension to my daily work, especially if I am retained by the plaintiff. In other words, being present not only in the exam room but being willing to testify in the courtroom as well. 

Life Care Planning in the Courtroom and the Exam Room

People must understand that the reason I do this work and take it so seriously is because I believe in what I do and am confident in my abilities, training, and experience  as a physician. For families, time in court can be incredibly stressful. They may have waited years for a case to go to trial. I have to also be sensitive to that reality.

From the attorney’s perspective, they usually prefer the life care planning experts and medical experts to be available in the courtroom in real time. They feel it is the most effective way to present evidence. (As opposed to giving testimony on tape to be played for a jury. This tends to put courtrooms to sleep, and it’s not as effective as a live interaction.)

Life Care Planning: A Source of Education

Being requested in the courtroom is part of my work as a physician. When I’m called, I see it as my professional duty to be knowledgeable and prepared. That’s just one part of my legal work. In addition to being hired for my ability and expertise, I am also valued for the relationship I have with other experts in the medical field. I am called for referrals to psychologists, plastic surgeons, neurosurgeons, etc. When their work is applicable to the case at hand, I am happy to provide the reference. As you can imagine, for a law firm utilizing an expert as a resource for other experts can be very helpful.

Courtroom Prep for Life Care Planners

A physician life care planner does a tremendous amount of work before ever stepping onto the stand. I must know:

Why is this so crucial? A treating physician may say one thing in their notes and then something entirely different under oath. At any time, there are 7-10 trials on my schedule. Not all will move forward but I still must be prepared.

I come to court even though it can be totally chaotic at times. Things change quickly, travel is required, and my prep must be updated regularly. It’s important to know that this is no easy task. To be the subject of inquiry and examination is potentially adversarial. The opposing counsel’s role, many times, is to try to impeach an expert and disqualify them. 

At the end of the day, in a courtroom, someone wins and someone loses. My role in all of this is not to be an advocate. I can do that in the exam room, but in the courtroom I am an educator. I must have a complete and thorough knowledge of the facts and must use them to help the jury understand. 

Oftentimes I’m called to give opinions about causation, permanency, if someone has been given reasonable care, and the future of the person’s medical needs. This includes current conditions, their future needs, and an educated reliable prediction of the long-term costs involved. I do not lose sight of the importance of legal proceedings for my patients and my clients. In every case, I am reminded of the stress and pain involved in getting to this point. 

If you or someone you know has suffered an injury and needs a consultation, this is the best way to get in touch with myself and my team. Click here if  you need my expert assistance in the courtroom or the exam room.

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

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