I am retired as of Jan, 1, 2015. How long does someone have to file a suit against me or involving me at the hospital where I worked? In other words, does someone have a certain number of years to bring a suit? Nothing of this nature happened while I was working, but I know if I admitted a patient and he fell a month later, I could be involved in the lawsuit.
Dear Nancy replies:
The statute of limitations, the law that sets time frames within which a suit for professional negligence must be filed, may vary from state to state. Generally speaking, however, the time frame is the suit must be filed within two years of the date of the occurrence of the injury that gives rise to the suit. There are many, many exceptions to this general rule. One is if the injured person is a minor. If so, the statute of limitations is longer. For example, it may be the individual, or his or her representative, have until the minor is 18 years of age to file a suit for an injury sustained years before.
There are other possible causes of action that can be filed against a nurse with different time frames for filing a suit. For example, defamation/slander is generally required to be filed within one year of the alleged false statements.
The other issue your question raises is if you were covered by your employer’s professional liability insurance while you were employed, would it still cover you if a suit were filed, say three years after you retired but within the required time period to file the suit? Coverage would depend on whether the professional liability insurance policy was a claims-made policy or an occurrence policy. If the policy is claims-made, it ceases to protect you once you are no longer an employee at the facility, regardless of the statute of limitations time frame. If it is an occurrence policy, however, you would be covered as long as you were employed and covered by the policy when the alleged injury occurred. This is why an occurrence policy is the better choice for professional liability protection.
You might want to check out these coverage details with your former employer’s HR department. In addition, seeking information from the risk manager of your former employer as to the statute of limitations in your state, along with exceptions, would be helpful to you. If you cannot obtain this information from the risk manager, contacting your state professional nursing association and/or a nurse attorney or other attorney for the information is another option.