5 Preparation Strategies for Healthcare Witnesses

CSI - Courtroom Sciences Inc


Medical malpractice litigation can generate devastating and unnecessary financial and emotional repercussions, causing difficulty and turmoil for health care professionals. The causes of a healthcare witness’s struggle in the deposition are tied to certain aspects inherent to the medical profession. In many cases, the same characteristics it takes to make an outstanding healthcare worker make the same individual a poor healthcare witness. 

With witness performance being the leading determinant of verdict and damage awards, witness preparation is one of the most fundamental and essential tasks that a trial attorney performs. Yet, traditional witness preparation strategies do not prepare healthcare witnesses for the emotions associated with testifying nor for the manipulative reptile attacks that they may face. 

The psychology experts at Courtroom Sciences understand the inherent challenges nurses and other healthcare professionals face in a deposition and can help you mitigate risk with effective witness training and preparation. Our sophisticated neuro-cognitive witness training program is designed to assess and address a witness’s emotional state, prepare them for manipulative reptile questions, and help keep them from making errors that can devastate your case.

 What is key to successfully preparing a healthcare witness?

Due to how healthcare professionals are hardwired to think, listen, and communicate, they often require a different approach from the preparation of other witnesses. Critical steps for healthcare witness preparation include avoiding last-minute preparation, establishing trust, assessing their emotional state, offering reassurance, distinguishing charting from causation, and teaching them the legal definition of the standard of care. 

 

Healthcare Witnesses are Susceptible to Reptile Attacks

Due to the prevalence of adverse outcomes, healthcare corporations and healthcare witnesses are especially susceptible to plaintiff reptile attacks. Many job-related factors negatively impact a healthcare witness’s abilities to testify effectively in a deposition or trial, including professional and academic training, on-the-job experiences, and the pressures and demands of the job. These factors can cause many healthcare professionals to arrive at their deposition with the following feelings and emotions: anxiety, anger, frustration, apathy, fear, sadness, and even sympathy for the plaintiff. 

Manipulative reptile attacks can thwart even the most educated healthcare professional due to how these professionals are trained to think, listen, and communicate in a certain way in a healthcare setting. Healthcare professionals must routinely answer patient questions, provide patient information, and form opinions regarding treatment plans. Yet, in a deposition or trial, the same instincts to always have an answer or volunteer unsolicited information can be problematic rather than helpful. 

In medical malpractice litigation, a reptile attack would begin by getting the healthcare witness to ultimately agree to some general questions, such as safety rule questions or danger rule questions. Healthcare witnesses often become overwhelmed during this line of questioning, particularly as the word ‘safety’ in the phrase ‘patient safety’ does not mean the same thing legally as it does clinically. Once the healthcare professional has inadvertently entrenched themselves deeply into an absolute, inflexible stance that omits circumstances and judgment, the plaintiff attorney will go right to the case facts, questions that will entirely contradict the reptilian answers, trapping the witness and creating a hypocrisy effect. 

Day in and day out, healthcare professionals spend their careers helping people. Yet it is this very nature when put into a litigation setting that can allow a plaintiff attorney to take full advantage of healthcare witnesses.  

5 Preparation Strategies for Healthcare Witnesses 

Healthcare professionals can be difficult witnesses, which is why healthcare corporations need expert witness training to help identify their vulnerabilities and then teach them how to listen and think differently, control their emotions, and respond in a way that thwarts plaintiff reptile attacks.

The five key preparation strategies for healthcare witnesses include:

1.  Avoiding Last-Minute Preparation - Healthcare professionals often require more than one training session for some of the most important behavioral and attitudinal changes.

2.  Establishing Trust – Many healthcare professionals will be wary of anything associated with the litigation process, including defense counsel. It is important to emphasize to healthcare witnesses that you are there to help them, you care about them, and you are going to supply them with the necessary tools to navigate the deposition safely.

3.  Offering Reassurance – A pervasive belief among healthcare professionals who are deposed is that they are at risk of losing their jobs, licenses, reputations, and possibly even their livelihoods. It is vital to address these concerns and eliminate inaccurate beliefs and assumptions as early as possible in the litigation process.

4.  Distinguishing Charting from Causation – Plaintiff’s counsel will always find something “incomplete” in the charting. Healthcare witnesses need to embrace the concept that patient care trumps charting and that something “missing” from the chart is not a cause of the patient’s harm.

5.  Teaching the Standard of Care – Healthcare professionals often mistakenly believe that something less than perfection breaches the standard of care. Healthcare witnesses need to learn what the standard of care means in the legal context, how it applies to the rendered care, and how the plaintiff’s counsel will attempt to use it in the deposition. Healthcare witnesses must be prepared to identify and handle the various forms of the standard of care questions in the deposition. 

Most healthcare professionals care about their patients, and they want to come into the deposition or trial and deliver thoughtful and accurate testimony. At Courtroom Sciences, we have a specific neuroscientific methodology for healthcare witnesses to prepare them to appear poised, confident, and persuasive. 

As part of the legal team, Courtroom Sciences’ can help prepare witnesses by providing expert resources that lead to predictive results and superior litigation outcomes. Speak with one of our experts to get started.

Key Takeaways

●  Healthcare witnesses are particularly susceptible to plaintiff reptile attacks due to the prevalence of negative outcomes in healthcare.

●  Due to how healthcare professionals are hardwired to think, listen, and communicate, they often require a different approach from the preparation of other witnesses.

●  Key steps for healthcare witness preparation include avoiding last-minute preparation, establishing trust, offering reassurance, distinguishing charting from causation, and teaching the legal definition of the standard of care. 

●  Courtroom Sciences has a proven neuroscientific methodology for healthcare witnesses to prepare them for manipulative reptile questions and prevent them from making errors that can devastate your case.


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