Nursing Malpractice Insurance: Fact and Fiction
Written by Joshua Kleinstreuer
IN A NUTSHELL:
- Nurses should have malpractice insurance
- Employer policy doesn’t cover everything
- Physicians aren’t the only ones who get sued
There are some misconceptions that exist surrounding nurses and professional liability insurance, also known as nursing malpractice insurance.
It is important to understand what is fact and what is fiction. The American Nurses Association outlined some of the common myths that exist and what nurses need to know about having their own malpractice insurance.
Only physicians get sued for malpractice
While physicians get sued more often than nurses, it is a trend that has shifted recently. Health care organizations are recognizing the individual contributions of all their workers, not just physicians. With that recognition comes individual accountability, which includes the possibility of nurses being sued for malpractice based on their own acts.
A person can be sued only if a mistake is made
Anyone can be sued if someone believes they are responsible for a certain patient outcome, even if that belief is not true. A person can also be sued by a patient who hasn’t suffered damages but hopes to win a settlement, even though the lawsuit has no grounds. Regardless of whether or not a lawsuit has merit, expenses are incurred through the dismissal process. An individual malpractice insurance policy can provide peace of mind and protect against the financial ruin that can result from being sued.
Nurses don’t need their own insurance because their employer’s policy provides coverage
A majority of nurses who rely on employer coverage have never seen the policy or even asked about the scope of coverage. Sometimes they are surprised to learn the insurance has gaps and doesn’t adequately cover all of their risks. For instance, if the incident that led to a lawsuit is outside the scope of a job description, the employer can refuse to defend the nurse. If the claim is filed after a resignation or termination, the employer’s policy may not provide coverage.
Additionally, if a nurse is covered only under an employer’s policy, it is likely that there is no decision in regard to representation. A claims adjuster from the employer’s insurance company will assign the attorney. The policy exists primarily to protect the employer from liability it faces from employee actions. When a conflict of interest arises between employer and employee, the employer’s interest takes priority.
Lastly, the employer policy protects a nurse only at work. Anyone that provides nursing services outside of their job, even if it’s as a volunteer or a favor to a neighbor, needs to have an individual policy to be covered. Good Samaritan laws only provide protection in emergency situations.