How can a nurse expert witness support a nursing negligence case?

What can they do to help?

Given the nature of nursing work and the high-pressure environments that nursing staff work in, there is always a risk that the level of care given will fall below the required standards. This can sometimes have catastrophic consequences for patients and their families when they are left with life-altering injuries or require additional care and resources if they are to live an independent life. Tragically, negligence can also lead to death, so it’s important that any nursing negligence cases are thoroughly investigated by an expert with significant experience in their field. 

Payouts for nursing negligence cases total 1.5% of the NHS’ budget. Although the volume of cases settled without court proceedings reached a high of 77% in 2021/22, payments for settled claims still equated to £2.4 billion. 

In this blog post, we will explore the role of a nurse expert witness and some typical cases where you might benefit from their expertise in a clinical negligence case. 

When would you need a nurse medico-legal expert witness?

A nurse medico-legal expert would be required to prove that there is a case against the NHS for nursing negligence. If the claimant believes that the care they received from a member of the nursing team fell below the standard of care required by law, or if the patient has suffered physical or economic damages because of a nurse’s actions or inaction, then a medico-legal expert witness would be required to provide legal medical testimony for any court proceedings.

In some cases, there may be a causal connection between the nurse’s action or inaction, which may result in life-altering injuries or even death to a patient, which a nurse medico-legal expert would need to provide as a medical witness for court.

To find out more about instructing a nurse expert witness, check out our Nurse Expert Witness page.

Nurse Negligence

What is the role of the nurse medico-legal expert?

A nurse medico-legal expert is required to provide a medical opinion for legal cases to present to the judge based on their expert opinion on standard practice within the nursing profession.

When representing a client with a medical or nursing negligence claim, a medical expert for legal cases would look at the following to establish any potential liability: 

  • Duty – did the nurse not provide the correct level of care?
  • Deviation – did the nurse deviate from their duty of care? 
  • Direct Causation – has any potential negligence resulted in complications, trauma, pain or injury to a claimant? A nurse expert witness would need to establish if there is a direct link between the treatment given and the harm suffered. 
  • Damages – a nurse medico-legal expert witness report can verify any claims for damages as a result of the injury suffered, which could be financial, social or psychological. 

If you’d like to know more about the role of a nurse expert witness, you can read our interview with Advance Nursing Practitioner Expert Witness, Ms Wendie Smith. 

How will a nurse expert witness support your negligence case?

A forensic medical expert with a specialism in nursing will review the notes to establish whether the care given would meet the standard that a reasonable and responsible nurse would be expected to provide.   

They use their specialist nursing knowledge to determine whether negligence occurred in the patient’s treatment. 

As they review the evidence provided by both the prosecution and defence, they will identify any circumstances that led to the nurse taking a particular course of action when the incident occurred.

Common causes of nursing negligence include failure to administer medication, inadequate monitoring of patients or a lack of communication with the healthcare team. The nursing expert witness will look at whether the lack of care is due to misconduct, a lack of competence or if there were circumstances outside of the nurse’s control which meant they were unable to provide the quality of care required.

What will a nurse expert witness provide for the court?

If you commission a nurse expert witness, they will act as a medical witness to court and will attend the hearing to present their findings. The nurse expert witness will use the Bolam and Bolitho test to determine whether there is a clinical negligence claim. Their report will be compliant with part 35 of the Civil Procedure rules. 

How do you choose the right nurse expert witness?

Depending on the nature of the case, it’s important to make sure that your nurse expert witness has experience that will directly relate to their case.Nursing is a multi-faceted profession, so it’s important to choose an expert with the right level of professional experience. This might be the length of time they’ve worked in the profession, the volume of reports they have written or their specific area of nursing specialism.

Based on the specific requirements of a clinical negligence case, we can offer a range of nurse expert witnesses with a range of specialist nursing skills, including:

  • Registered Nurses
  • Independent Nurse Prescribers
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists
  • Registered Mental Health Nurses
  • Pain Specialist Nurses
  • Learning Disability Nurses
  • ADHD and Autism Nurses
  • Advanced Nurse Practitioners

If you’d like to explore our range of nursing expert witnesses, you can take a look at our team of nurse expert witnesses here.

Speak to our experts.

Expert Court Reports Provides Expert Witnesses, and medicolegal court reports for solicitors, barristers and other agencies, including the police, probation services, prisons, and third-sector organisations, as well as private clients. To discuss any issues raised in this article, please call us on 01865 587865, email office@expertcourtreports.co.uk, or request a call by completing our online form.