In any medical-legal case, a plaintiff fact sheet is an important document that provides both the plaintiff and defense sides with an outline of the case so that they can understand its strengths and weaknesses. Attorneys handling these types of cases get the plaintiff fact sheet prepared with the assistance of a medical review company so that they can study the case thoroughly before preparing it. These fact sheets are court-approved standardized forms and are most often required in multi-district litigation or MDL that involves a large number of plaintiffs. With a well-prepared, accurate plaintiff fact sheet, the defense team need not spend valuable time preparing and sending interrogatories to each claimant. At the same time, plaintiff attorneys can meet early discovery obligations more easily.
For a plaintiff fact sheet to be complete, accurate and meaningful, it must be prepared with great care and attention to the minutest details. To get the medical facts right, the relevant medical records are reviewed utilizing medical records services. What are the various details that need to be included in fact sheets?
- Basic background information of the plaintiff such as education, family, and employment. Also, social media use, criminal history (if any), and litigation history.
- Medical information related to the injury, treatment providers, prescriptions, hospitals, pharmacies; also, medical release authorizations
- When and why the plaintiff used a particular device, service, or product
- Product identification records such as the brand used and model
- Releases for insurance and financial information
Let us now look at how the plaintiff fact sheet is prepared and filled.
- A thorough medical chart review is performed to collect all relevant medical information
- Any information that is missing in the patient’s records is identified and arrangements are made to obtain the missing medical records so that the required information is available before preparing the case for trial.
- The PFS is filled out using the patient information collected from the medical records.
- The medical history of the plaintiff is studied in detail. The entries on the PFS highlight the key events and healthcare facts.
- The PFS entries are linked to the source medical record from which the information has been taken. Attorneys can therefore easily understand how the particular medical event can be linked to the injury sustained by the plaintiff.
Courts may differ as regards the type of plaintiff fact sheets required, whether shorter forms or extensive fact sheets. PFS preparation for a large number of clients can be quite intimidating for law firms that are already hard-pressed for time. Some best practices can be adopted to ease the process.
- Start completing the plaintiff fact sheet as soon as there is documentation available that the plaintiff has been injured by a drug or product in question. It is best not to delay the process until the case is filed because such a waiting period could ultimately make it difficult to meet deadlines imposed by the court.
- A copy of the PFS must be sent to each client. The attorney will have to set apart some time to help plaintiffs complete the form because often plaintiffs may find it too complex to complete on their own. Moreover, when such a time is scheduled with the client, they can clear any doubts they have and provide a complete answer to each question.
- Train office staff to handle calls made by injured clients and be empathetic. It is important that the law firm staff maintains empathy towards the clients and is supportive throughout. They must also make sure that all information regarding the claim is obtained completely and accurately. For this, the staff must be trained in the litigation process and understand all the questions on the PFS.
- It is best that all medical-related questions on the PFS are identified before the actual medical chart review. This will make the PFS filling process easier and more efficient.
Law firms and attorneys handling plaintiff fact sheet preparation could find the process a rather challenging one. The medical jargon and abbreviations used in the medical records could be difficult to understand and this in turn makes it tough to understand and complete the PFS. They could also find it difficult to supplement the medical events entered in the plaintiff fact sheet with the authorized medical records. Law firms that want an easier and more efficient solution prefer to outsource medical chart reviews and plaintiff fact sheet preparation so that they can focus more on the case.