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Nurse Malpractice Insurance: Is It For You? | Trusted Health

Aug 23, 2022
Caitie Fredrickson

“Malpractice” is something no clinician ever hopes to be accused of. But what is malpractice?

Generally, medical malpractice can be thought of as an allegation or claim that a health care professional’s improper acts (or omissions) caused or contributed to injury or death of a patient. 

Nurse malpractice insurance can help offer protection to nurses who have been accused of malpractice. Here are some thoughts to consider if you’re curious whether malpractice insurance could be right for you.

What is Nurse Malpractice Insurance?

Nurse malpractice insurance provides legal and financial protection for clinicians who have been involved in incidents that create the risk of a breach of care.

Legal protection provided by malpractice insurance will generally defend you against the accusation of a breach of care if legal proceedings have been brought against you.

Financial protection provided by malpractice insurance will generally cover items like a lawyer or court fees that are associated with the case. Damages to the patient may also be eligible for coverage, such as economic damages (like medical costs, lost wages, or funeral costs) or general damages (i.e. pain and suffering). 

Keep in mind that while malpractice insurance will generally provide coverage for the cost of legal defense and indemnity, fees associated with any fines accrued during legal proceedings are not covered by insurance. 

It is very important to note that not all malpractice insurance plans offer the same coverage. Be sure to carefully read and understand your policy, clarifying any outstanding questions with your insurance agent.

Why Might You Need Malpractice Insurance?

If you work for a facility, they already have a malpractice policy in place or are self-insured. The facility’s policy generally covers the hospital as an organization as well as most of their nurses, though there can be exceptions, such as may be the case for traveling nurses. However, you can rest easy knowing Trusted does carry liability and workers’ compensation insurance for all Trusted Nurses.

Even though you may be entitled to coverage through the hospital, the hospital may have the right to settle any case where a nurse has been individually named. Facilities (or the facility’s insurance company) may make a business decision to settle in order to limit expenses accrued by the cost of defense, or for other reasons. 

In these instances, you may feel that as a matter of principle, conscience, or to avoid an inquiry from the state’s Board of Nursing, you wish to continue to defend the care provided. A personal liability policy provides reassurance that your coverage is not solely dependent upon the actions of your facility.

Another benefit of a private policy is access to private legal counsel. This ensures you are able to work with an attorney who solely works in your best interest. Without your own counsel, you will be represented by your facility’s chosen counsel, who works in the interest of your facility as a whole and not necessarily in your best interest individually.

Finally, malpractice insurance can combine with your hospital’s policy to provide an additional layer of protection for damages. As an added benefit, your plan may also provide broader or more specific coverage than your hospital’s nurse policy does, minimizing your vulnerability in the instance of a claim.

Many nurses were shaken by the case involving Radonda Vaught and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In the wake of this incident, you may be wondering if a personal liability policy could help you if you were ever in a similar situation. While malpractice insurance is something to seriously consider, it will not protect you if criminal charges have been brought against you, as was the case with Radonda Vaught.

Keep in mind that not every policy covers every type of damage. Always be sure to thoroughly familiarize yourself with your plan to understand your coverage.

What Types of Malpractice Insurance Are There?

There are several types of malpractice insurance. Plans may provide coverage for:

  • Claims and lawsuits in which you are individually named
  • Board complaints filed against you
  • Deposition assistance if you are called as a witness for a personal lawsuit or worker’s compensation claim involving a patient you have treated
  • Deposition assistance for a malpractice suit against your facility or another practitioner you’ve worked with, but not against you specifically
  • Lost wages for time spent at trial when you have been named in a lawsuit
  • Plans may also provide limited coverage for sexual malpractice if you have been accused of sexually assaulting a patient. 
💡 Remember: Not all plans will offer the same coverage. A policy may not cover all of these items, and may only offer coverage up to a certain limit. Once you’ve determined what type(s) of coverage are right for you, speak with your insurance agent to select the plan that best fits your needs.

How Much Does Malpractice Insurance Generally Cost?

Nurse malpractice insurance is generally very affordable compared to the cost of malpractice insurance for physicians. Nurse malpractice insurance costs less than a few hundred dollars a year- some plans are even offered for as little as $60 a year!

While the cost of malpractice insurance isn’t impacted as greatly by speciality as it is for physicians, speciality can still make a difference. For example, nurses working in the ICU or L&D units could pay more for insurance than a nurse working in a flu clinic.

Additionally, the cost of malpractice insurance for Nurse Practitioners or Certified Nurse Anesthetists will generally be higher than the cost of insurance for RNs or LPNs.

With that said, the cost of malpractice policies are fairly static and even across the spectrum of the profession.

Pros of Nurse Malpractice Insurance

Nurse malpractice insurance provides individual protection for nurses

Nurse malpractice insurance provides individualized protection for nurses separate from their facility’s policy. Your facility may have different objectives and interests for the outcome of a claim than you do. Obtaining a personal policy provides access to a policy, insurer, and/or legal counsel whose primary objective is to protect you as an individual, and not just the facility you work for.

Nurse malpractice insurance can provide additional limits of coverage 

An Individual Professional Liability policy acts as a security blanket, providing you with an added layer of protection in the event of a potential or actual liability claim to which your insurance policy applies. 

Obtaining nurse malpractice insurance is simply a smart idea

You’ve worked hard to get where you are in your career. Don’t let a board complaint or lawsuit derail your future. While insurance companies make no guarantees as to the outcome of a claim, malpractice insurance gives you autonomy over your career, providing you with the ability to be represented by your own legal counsel.

Cons of Nurse Malpractice Insurance

Nurse malpractice insurance is paid out of the nurse’s pocket

While facilities pay for a generalized malpractice policy that covers all of their employees, if you wish to obtain private insurance you will be responsible for this cost. While this may feel like a deterrent to some nurses, keep in mind that nurse policies are usually quite affordable, and could save you thousands of dollars in the event a claim is made against you.

Nurses will need to make time to shop for insurance and renew their policy regularly

Time is money- so the other cost of maintaining a professional liability policy is time spent shopping for a plan. Just like when you are searching for auto or homeowners insurance, you will need to take time to research companies, request quotes, and carefully compare policies to find a plan that’s best for you. Additionally, you will need to make time to review and renew your policy each year. 

That said, like auto and homeowners insurance, your malpractice insurance company will remind you when it is time to renew your plan.

Wrapping Up

There are several factors to consider when deciding if nurse malpractice insurance is needed in your unique circumstances. Trusted carries liability and workers’ compensation insurance for all of our nurses, but your level of comfort will ultimately dictate whether you’d like to purchase supplemental insurance.

While Trusted does not reimburse the cost of a personal liability policy, we do generally like to encourage every Trusted nurse to have their own insurance (malpractice or otherwise) for a number of personal and professional reasons. If you still have questions about malpractice policies after reading this article, we recommend reaching out to an insurance agent directly with your questions or to receive a quote.

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