Malpractice Insurance: Myths That Harm Nurse
Do you carry insurance on your home or car? The answer, of course, is YES. Yet many nurses fail to protect one of their most precious assets: their nursing career. In these unsure financial times, it is even more crucial to protect one's career. So why do most nurses choose not to purchase medical malpractice insurance?
Nurses hear many myths from various sources that keep them from obtaining insurance to protect their nursing license.
It is important to examine these myths so that ALL nurses providing direct patient care will understand the importance of nurse malpractice insurance and will be represented properly in front of the Board in case a lawsuit is filed.
Myth: "Malpractice Insurance will increase my risk of being sued."
Some nurses do not obtain personal malpractice insurance because they believe that it will make them targets for lawsuits. This is not true.
Unless the nurse voluntarily informs a potential Plaintiff that the nurse has malpractice insurance, the potential Plaintiff would not know whether the nurse had insurance or not. The decision on who to name in a lawsuit is not based on whether the potential Defendants have malpractice insurance or not. Whether a nurse has insurance is not usually found out until after the lawsuit has been filed and the parties are in the discovery phase of the lawsuit.
However, having malpractice insurance might keep a nurse in a lawsuit. Some attorneys will keep a defendant in a lawsuit if the defendant has insurance to pay for potential settlements or judgments. In the past, not having insurance benefited nurses because attorneys would drop nurses out of a lawsuit because the nurses did not have "deep" pockets and did not typically have malpractice insurance. So, if there was not much money available the nurse was dismissed.
Now, many attorneys will not dismiss any defendants from a lawsuit if there is potential to get any amount of money from them (plus nurses are being paid much more now).
The bigger issue with this myth is that it ignores the main reason nurses should get malpractice insurance – having a complaint filed against them with the Board of Nurses. More and more medical complaints are being filed with the BON, so there is a greater likelihood that a nurse will face a complaint at some point in her/his career (some nurses may face more than one complaint depending on where they work). Too many nurses find themselves having to agree to restrictions on their license because they do not have the financial resources to fight the BON.
Insurance will cover legal fees and expenses and some even pay for time lost from work, lodging and meals.
Myth: I am covered under my facility’s insurance.
What is that coverage? What are the limits? Is it enough coverage? It is better to also have your own insurance so that you know the answer to these questions.
If you work agency, your facility’s insurance will not cover you.
The facility’s insurance will not provide legal representation when the matter is referred to the Board of Nursing. A big problem with using the facility’s insurance is that the loyalty is to the facility first and then to the nurse. Another issue that has arisen lately is that if the hospital loses a lawsuit, the hospital may then sue the nurse to recover the damages. In that case, the hospital is not going to pay for the nurse’s defense against its own suit.
Myth: I don’t need insurance because I am a good nurse.
Good nurses get sued and they get reported to the Board of Nursing. Paying for legal representation and expenses is very expensive. Think about the freedom insurance provides for a nurse reported to the Board. Not only does the nurse not have to worry about paying for an attorney, but a nurse is able to evaluate a settlement offer by the BON thoroughly without having to worry whether he or she can afford to take the matter to a hearing if the nurse does not agree with the settlement offer.
Obviously if a nurse loses a suit for damages in a malpractice case, the nurse is liable for the monetary award given to the Plaintiff. Without insurance, even if the nurse is found not to be negligent, the nurse is still responsible for the attorney fees and expenses incurred during the trial. The nurse has also missed work and employers do not usually compensate for the time missed.