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Another Day in Court

Often I am asked, what is it like to go to court?   What is it like to testify?   I share this experience as one example.  Each experience is different, but basically in every case a nurse expert is sharing the nursing standard of care in another venue, in front of the judge and jury. As a nurse you understand the nursing standard of care and after reviewing the records and discovery you know and understand the nursing deviations to explain to others.  Preparation is the key to your success.

Each time I head out the door for a deposition or trial, I still have the same bit of anxiety and I wonder what the questions will be.  I know the medical records backwards and forwards, but you never know what is going to be asked by the opposite side.  One question, is always, what is the opposite side going to produce to me from the records that has never been disclosed after multiple requests in the years of asking and discovery requests. 

Recently I had a case in the same state I live, but about 4 to 5 hours’ drive away.   I packed up everything I needed the day before the trial and off I drove into the rain and snow with about 1 mile or less visibility all the way.  To say the least I was “pumped” up and ready for the trial, but to add the weather into the equation was another moment of tension.

Arriving safely and checking into the hotel the night before went well.  I could have gotten up early the day of the trial and driven down but I have learned I need a good night’s sleep before going to court or a deposition.   Sleep is a prime part of preparation for me before a major event. 

When getting ready to travel a distance for trial, it is important to be not only prepared, but to add extra time into the travel to allow for other factors beyond your control, such as the weather.  Other factors can be traffic delays and mechanical breakdowns plus other unknown events.  You must be refreshed and on time for trial.  Your delay and being later no matter the reason is never acceptable.

Fortunately in this case, the arrival the night before gave me a chance to relax, get something to eat and meet with the attorneys to focus on what was needed for the next day.  I also had the time to sit and have a last minute review of my materials, timelines, and medical records.

After a good night’s sleep, the trial day always goes better.   If you are well prepared, know your materials and medical records, a good night’s sleep can occur.  The saying is “prepare, prepare, and prepare. 

In this above case, I was up and ready as I could be.  I headed to the courthouse early and I waited in the church parking lot across from the courthouse, listening for the call that it was my turn to testify.  The call never came.  Instead, I received a message, the proceeding was “way behind” and I was to return to the hotel I had checked out of and wait for another message.

I checked back in and waited for the next set of instructions of when it would be my turn.  I received a message; I could check out of the hotel and head back home. No further information but it would be explained later what happened.  That was my “day at trial” that I had prepared, prepared, and prepared for to answer any question asked of me about the case.  I knew the case backwards and forwards. 

In this case, during the delay of the first day of trial, a settlement was offered.  The clients and parties agreed to the settlement and arrangements were made.  That was the end of the case.  It was an undisclosed settlement amount which happens in most of my nursing home cases.   

Was I surprised by this ending?  Not really, because as a nurse expert witness, you expect the unexpected.

Just in the above case, in another case, I had again prepared, prepared, and prepared, packed the car and heading down the highway.   I received the “call” while driving on the highway, there was a settlement on the “courthouse” steps as we call it.  Settlement can happen at most anytime along the way in a case.  I turned around and headed home. 

As nurse expert witness or any discipline witness, it can never be assumed a case will settle before trial.  Preparation is key to any case success with the preparation focus on the trial and testifying before a jury.


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