Will having liability insurance make it more likely that I will be sued?

By | 2022-02-14T17:56:46-05:00 June 6th, 2011|0 Comments

Question:

Dear Nancy,

Does carrying malpractice insurance put an RN at risk of being sued if he or she is named in a lawsuit against his or her employer? I have heard that if a nurse has a personal policy, they are subject to being sued, particularly if the case is settled out of court.

Terri

Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Terri,

In today’s litigious society, it is risky to practice any profession without professional liability insurance. This is especially so when there is an injury or a death because of the alleged negligence of a nurse, a hospital and others on the healthcare team. When such an injury occurs, all those who in good faith can be named as defendants in a lawsuit are named by the plaintiff’s (patient’s) attorney. Nurses are very likely to be named as defendants because when patient care is the basis of the case, nurses are the ones delivering nursing care, monitoring the patient, administering medications and so forth. It may be proven that the nurse was not negligent in providing care that resulted in the injury, but that is not always known at the initiation of a case and until all the relevant evidence is discovered and evaluated.

You can rest assured a plaintiff’s attorney will not be concerned about whether you as a nurse have professional liability insurance. Rather, the attorney is concerned with naming as defendants all who may have had a part in the injury or death of the plaintiff because he or she can try the case only once. If a defendant is omitted and a judgment or settlement has taken place, that defendant cannot be sued for the same case. This is called the doctrine of res judicata.

Keep in mind that if you have no professional liability insurance coverage and a settlement or judgment is entered against you, any dollar amount would be paid for from your personal funds. In contrast, a professional liability insurance policy provides you with money (up to the policy limits) from which a judgment or settlement can be paid.

Professional liability insurance has been the subject of several responses in this column, so you may want to review the responses for some general information about professional liability insurance policies. You also can research the benefits of such insurance by doing research on the topic online, in nursing journals and in nursing textbooks.

Sincerely,
Nancy

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