Case management for small firms can be difficult, especially with the significant amounts of convoluted discovery that can be involved in a medical malpractice case. Consider implementing some of these simple processes to improve case management at your firm.
Bookmark your medical records in Adobe. If you’re not using case management software, then bookmarking in Adobe Acrobat is your next best option. Bookmarks can be simple or more in-depth, depending on preference. However, bookmarking the medical record can be extremely helpful in identifying the pertinent pages of the record. This also assists firms in being able to easily locate specific parts of the record. Bookmarking not only keeps firms organized but cuts down on the time it takes to locate specific pieces of the client’s care.
Create a table of events. Create a simple table of events or high-level timeline that highlights each important time and date of the client’s care. This makes it easier to identify gaps in care, holes in the medical record, or identify areas where additional discovery may be necessary. A timeline also helps keep firms focused on the times at issue and avoids confusion.
Get a clinical chronology. A clinical chronology can identify issues with patient care such as critical vitals, imaging, misdiagnoses, and other potential issues. A clinical chronology may also point out that there are issues with the medical record’s production, such as missing flowsheets or order information. The clinical chronology, in conjunction with the high-level timeline can help craft discovery requests to get to the bottom of those issues.
Start a discovery inventory. Whenever new discovery is received, it should be added to a discovery inventory list. This makes it easier to identify whether all discovery requested was provided, and specifically, what was not provided. Additionally, a discovery inventory makes it easy to visualize what discovery the firm currently has and what still needs to be requested.
Map and validate discovery responses. It is important to map and validate discovery responses using the discovery inventory. Firms should be checking incoming discovery against Requests for Production and Interrogatories to determine what discovery was provided, and what was not. However, firms should also check to ensure that the discovery provided is responsive to the request. Often the documents provided are not responsive to the initial request. Thus, the documents should be checked for completeness, proper format, usability (e.g. not locked), accurate date ranges, and custodianship (i.e. how the document was produced, and by whom). If the discovery does not provide the answers the firm was searching for, then timely follow-through with the defense will increase the chances for a better supplemental response.
It is helpful to have these processes in place before hiring a consultant or expert in your case, as many of these steps may allow consultants and experts to become quickly familiarized with the case and its focus issues.