I have always carried a personal nursing liability insurance policy. I work part-time as a state services review nurse approving/disapproving pediatric private duty nursing hours for Medicaid. I understand there is a state tort claims act. If I were sued for a decision at work, is a tort claims act sufficient liability coverage? Or would you still recommend maintaining my personal liability insurance policy?
Could you give a brief summary of this act? Who would represent and guide me?
Nancy Brent replies:
In order to obtain specific advice about your position with the state and the state’s tort claims act, you will need to consult with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who can provide specific advice and guidance to you concerning your potential liability in this position. If you were sued for an injury or death to a patient in this capacity, either an attorney provided by your own professional liability insurance policy (that is specific for this type of nurse role) or a private attorney may likely be your best representative in such a lawsuit. If you have your own professional liability insurance, remember that you must notify the insurance company of a potential suit or an actual suit that is filed based on your conduct. You can discuss this issue with the attorney with whom you consult as well. He or she will also advise you of any representation possible by the employer if a suit is filed.
It is important to note that the tort claims act is not professional liability insurance. Rather, it is a statute that provides immunity from being sued for certain acts of state employees, the state and other state agencies and agents (e.g., school districts, hospitals). The immunity is not absolute, however, and there are many variations in each state as to what kinds of tortious acts (acts resulting in injuries to another) are covered (and therefore no successful suit can occur) and what tortious acts are not covered. As an example, willful and wanton negligent acts are usually not included in a state tort claims act. Therefore, there would be no immunity from a suit.
If you want to read more about this statute in your state, you can go to your state’s legislative page and place: “tort claims act” in the search bar. The law should appear in its entirety and will most likely be up to date for the purposes of a review of the statute. This review may help you formulate questions in preparation for your consultation with an attorney.