Do You Need Malpractice Insurance?


 
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Many nurses went into this career because of a strong, caring desire to help, cure and comfort those with illnesses of body and spirit.  Very few of us start out considering what happens when our efforts go wrong or the outcome we’re striving for can not be obtained.  What happens to the nurse when things go wrong?  Will your employer back you up if a claim is filed against you?  Do you need private malpractice insurance?

It is a sad fact that more people die every year because of medical mistakes than die from motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer or AIDS.  Along with this, more and more nurses are being named in the malpractice claims that follow these deaths and injuries.  Many of these cases will involve medication errors, but as the scope of practice for many nurses continues to expand so does the amount of care that they can be held accountable for.

It is a sad fact that more people die every year because of medical mistakes than die from motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer or AIDS.  Along with this, more and more nurses are being named in the malpractice claims that follow these deaths and injuries.  Many of these cases will involve medication errors, but as the scope of practice for many nurses continues to expand so does the amount of care that they can be held accountable for.

Careful and considerate care is the first step to prevention.  It has been well documented that patients do not name those who showed a compassionate and personal interest when filing a malpractice claim.  Utilizing good judgment and communication skills is also key, as well as accurate and timely documentation.  Working in a safety conscious and supportive environment is another positive measure.  Maintaining your own malpractice insurance is definitely another way to avoid personal devastation should you be named in a malpractice case.

Medical malpractice can be defined as a wrongful act by a physician, nurse, or other medical professional in the administration of treatment, or the omission of a needed and reasonable medical treatment.  Any malpractice case has three defining factors:

·        A person who has a duty of care.

·        A failure to exercise that care.

·        An injury or financial damages caused by the failure to provide appropriate care.

It must be proven that there was a legal duty to provide care for the patient, and a breach of that duty- diverging from established standards of care, as well as proof and verification that this negligence is directly related to patient harm.

While it is true that most employers provide liability insurance, it may not always be enough.  The employer’s policy may not cover the total award, or remain in effect after job termination.  Some types of employees (part-time, contract or agency) may not receive the same types of coverage.  The employer’s policy may not cover your personal fees associated with the case.  It is also not unheard of for an employer to support a nurse during the malpractice claim, and then file their own claim against the employee if they feel you were in the wrong.  Employers often don’t disclose exactly how you are “covered” by their insurance; always ask and be sure you understand what coverage is being provided.

Occurrence-based policies help cover you against claims made while you are working and when you were acting in a volunteer fashion (such as good Samaritan episodes).  These policies also generally extend into retirement, even if the policy has been cancelled.  That means if a claim is brought against you for an incident that occurred during the time you were working and the policy was in effect, you are covered.  On the other hand, claims-made policies only cover incidents occurring only if the policy is still in effect.

Carrying your own insurance is an added protection, particularly if you work in a specialty area; it can not increase the likelihood that you will be sued.  The plaintiff’s lawyers and jury are not allowed to know what kind of insurance you carry.  If the patient is awarded a settlement, your employer may pay the damages; but, if you can be held grossly responsible you may have to fully or partially pay these damages. Your personal savings and future earnings, your home and car could all be stripped.

It makes good sense and is relatively inexpensive:  on average yearly cost of a $1,000,000 nursing policy is approximately $90-100.  Do you need personal malpractice insurance?  You might, and you might just sleep better at night know you have it.

 

 

 

Resources Accessed January 2008:
Online Lawyer Source. Nursing Malpractice Issues.
http://www.onlinelawyersource.com/medical_malpractice/
nursing-malpractice/issues.html

Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health. Malpractice.
http://www.enotes.com/nursing-encyclopedia/malpractice

Zonderman, A. Nursing Malpractice Insurance. Advance for Nurses. http://nursing.advanceweb.com/editorial/
content/editorial.aspx?cc=101969

Copyright 2008- American Society of Registered Nurses (ASRN.ORG)-All Rights Reserved



 
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Articles in this issue:

Masthead

  • Masthead

    Editor-in Chief:
    Laura Fitzgerald

    Editorial Staff:
    Laura Fitzgerald
    Alison Palmer
    Kimberly McNabb
    Lisa Gordon
    Stephanie Robinson

    Creative Oversight:

    Design Director:
    Daria Dillard

    Design Firm:
    Agency San Francisco
    San Francisco, California

    Contributors:
    Laura Fitzgerald
    Alison Palmer
    Cris Lobato
    Elisa Howard
    Susan Cramer

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