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Why You Need Nursing Malpractice Insurance and How to Get It

Nurse contemplating malpractice insurance

As a nurse, there may be a time in your career when a mistake happens. If it does, there’s a chance you could be sued. In fact, More nurses were sued in 2020 than doctors (12K vs 13K).

One of the only ways to make it out financially intact is to have malpractice insurance. All healthcare workers should be educated in malpractice insurance.

Let’s dive in.

Why You Need Nursing Malpractice Insurance and How to Get It

Nurses work more closely with their patients than nearly any other medical professional, providing the care and assistance that patients need during difficult times.

However, working closely with patients can put nurses at risk of medical malpractice lawsuits. Roughly 47,000 Americans (averaged) file medical malpractice lawsuits each year. Even though we often associate malpractice claims with hospitalists, hospitals, and big practices, the truth is that medical professionals in almost any role can be accused of malpractice.

Malpractice claims, as is commonly known, are costly. The average cost of an RN suit, for instance, is $210,513.

What Is Medical Malpractice Insurance?

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other health care professional causes an injury to a patient due to negligence or substandard care.

When patients put their care in the hands of a professional, they expect that their condition will improve. However, if their provider makes a mistake, or fails to deliver quality care, it can often result in further injury, disability and emotional and financial damages to the patient.

Medical negligence can sometimes result in the death of a patient. According to Scientific American, about 98,000 people die each year due to medical errors in hospitals. When that happens, the family of the patient will often sue for medical malpractice, and nurses can often be the target of these lawsuits.

What do nurses get sued for?

Nurses spend a lot of time closely caring for patients. They are integral to patient care, filling in for doctors when necessary and often taking care of multiple patients at the same time. Because of this, there is always a chance that nurses may find themselves the target of a malpractice lawsuit.

This could happen for a number of reasons, including failing to:

  • Administer the incorrect medication or dosage
  • Respond during emergency situations
  • Accurately assess vital signs
  • Document procedures
  • Obtain the assistance of a doctor
  • Monitor and adjust medical equipment properly
  • Follow the acceptable standards or care
  • Monitor a patient’s health correctly or in a timely manner
  • Communicate a patient’s health correctly to supervisors
  • Use medical equipment correctly

Medical malpractice insurance protects nurses from liability in case of a malpractice lawsuit.

Medical malpractice coverage will cover the cost of any damages suffered by the patient, as well as assist nurses in finding legal representation to help them defend their case.

A malpractice lawsuit can not only cost nurses thousands of dollars in damages, but can seriously damage a nurse’s reputation, putting the future of their career in jeopardy. They also risk having their nursing license suspended or revoked by their state nursing board, which can jeopardize their career.

While medical malpractice is required by law for many doctors, the same is not always true for nurses. However, it’s recommended that nurses, no matter their specialty, also purchase malpractice insurance.

What does medical malpractice insurance cover?

A nurse’s exact coverage will vary depending on their specialty, how much they are willing to pay, as well as their type of employment.

However, nearly all policies will include the following:

Liability coverage

Most policies provide up to $1 million in liability coverage per claim. This protects nurses from paying out of pocket for any medical bills, lost wages, or other damages claimed by the patient or their families.

Nursing license protection

A nurse’s license is crucial to their career, and a malpractice claim can put that license in jeopardy. If a nurse is required to defend their case before a state or other licensing board, a medical malpractice policy will help to cover the costs of their defense.

Attorney & defense coverage

Even if nurses win their case and the malpractice claim against them is dismissed, they still have to pay thousands in legal fees alone. Many malpractice insurance companies will cover these fees regardless of whether the case is won or lost.

HIPAA violation coverage

If you’re found to have violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) you may be subject to fines or penalties. Malpractice insurance helps to cover the cost of these fines, as well as the cost of notifying any patients that a violation has occurred.

Personal injury coverage

If, while doing your job, a patient claims you’ve verbally or physically injured them, this coverage can help you cover the claim.

What is not covered by medical malpractice insurance?

A nurse may be sued for other reasons which are not covered by medical malpractice insurance.

Some common exclusions include:

  • Sexual misconduct claims
  • Criminal acts
  • Negligence while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Inappropriate alteration of medical records
  • Damages from data breaches or other cyber-security threats

What Nursing Specialities Need Medical Malpractice Insurance?

Nursing students who will need malpractice insurance

Doctors are not the only ones who need medical malpractice insurance. Any medical professional who works directly with patients and is responsible for their care should consider malpractice coverage.

  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Licensed Practical Nurses
  • Home Health Professionals
  • Hospice Care Professionals
  • Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs)
  • Registered Nurses

What about nursing students?

Nursing students often work face-to-face with patients. Even though they have not obtained a nursing license yet, they can still be sued for medical malpractice if something goes wrong.

Many universities require mandatory malpractice insurance for their student nurses.

Thankfully, many student policies typically cost much less than policies for registered nurses. Some policies cost as little as $14 a year.

You may also be interested in: Mortgage Loans for Nurse Practitioners or Best Home Loans for Nurses

Types of Nursing Medical Malpractice Coverage

There are two types of malpractice insurance available for nurses: claims-made policies and occurrence-based policies.

What are claims-made policies?

Claims-made policies offer coverage only when you have a policy in place and are paying premiums. This type of policy does not cover claims made before the policy was in place, or after the policy has ended.

If you had a claims-made policy for 2021 that expired at the end of the year, any claims made in 2022 will not be covered by your insurance policy.

Likewise, if a patient were to sue for an incident that occurred in 2020, it would not be covered under your 2021 insurance policy.

What are occurrence-based policies?

Occurrence policies cover any incidents that happen during the life of your policy, no matter when a claim is filed.

For example, if you held an occurrence policy between 2010–2015 and the issue named in the claim happened during those years you’d be covered, even if the actual claim wasn’t filed until 2017.

Which type of coverage is better?

While occurrence-based policies offer more coverage, they are often much more expensive than claims-made policies.

Most healthcare professionals opt for claims-made policies, because they allow more control over the amount of coverage that the professional is willing to pay for.

Extended Coverage

Professionals who want more coverage can also purchase additional policies to cover any gaps that they have in their coverage. This can often happen due to moving to a new state, changing employment, or retirement.

Nose coverage offers coverage for incidents that may have happened prior to the start date of a nurse’s current coverage.

Likewise, tail coverage helps to cover incidents that happened during a nurse’s previous coverage, but the claims for which were not made until after the coverage had already expired.

How do nurses purchase medical malpractice insurance?

There are a few options available for nurses to purchase medical malpractice insurance. Depending on the type of employment a nurse has, one or more of these options may be available to them:

  • Individual policy purchased from a traditional private insurer. Nurses who are independent contractors and are not employed by a particular hospital or medical group need to purchase their own individual policy.
  • Individual or group policy obtained through a medical risk retention group (RRG). Risk retention groups often have coverage minimums and other self-imposed rules for the kinds of coverage that their nurses need to have. They will often purchase one, all-encompassing policy that covers all of the professionals in their group.
  • Coverage provided as part of an employer’s policy. Hospitals, hospital groups, clinics, and organizations such as the VA often provide their employees with malpractice coverage as a part of their employment contract. Most nurses also have the option to purchase additional coverage if necessary.

What Does Nursing Medical Malpractice Coverage Cost?

Medical malpractice insurance for doctors can be very expensive. The average doctor pays around $7500 per year for malpractice insurance, with surgeons and OBGYNs often paying upwards of $12,000 per year for coverage.

However, nurses don’t have to worry about paying thousands of dollars in yearly premiums.

While every person’s premium will differ based on coverage needed, your level of education and your specific job, medical malpractice insurance for nurses is usually very affordable.

A policy with $1 million in liability coverage will usually only cost nurses $100 per year.

Common Myths About Medical Malpractice Insurance

Medical malpractice insurance is often misunderstood. Malpractice coverage for nurses is not talked about as often as coverage for doctors, so there are a lot of common misconceptions.

Let’s look at the most common.

Your employer will provide comprehensive coverage.

Hospitals will have their own malpractice insurance, but that’s mostly designed to cover the hospital in the event of a lawsuit, not necessarily nurses and physicians. That’s why an additional policy can offer you the protection you need.

As for nurses working in private practices, you’ll definitely want to get a malpractice policy. Even if you work for a doctor or a small practice, chances are they don’t have an in-depth policy, and they can get expensive quickly.

Doctors are the ones who get sued, not nurses.

Many people both in (and out of) the medical community naively believe that only the attending physician or the hospital itself will be sued if there’s an issue with patient care.

Unfortunately, that’s not true.

According to a recent review of over 4,500 closed malpractice lawsuits between 2018 and 2021, almost one in five incidents included an allegation of medical malpractice involving nurses.

Depending on the course of care, nearly everyone involved may be a part of the lawsuit.

Nursing malpractice suits are often expensive as well. Registered nurses who are subject to malpractice claims pay about $200,000 on average. Without insurance, that’s a significant amount to pay out of pocket.

In the aforementioned review, while nursing lawsuits only accounted for 18% of the allegations between 2018 and 2021, they accounted for more than a quarter of the total financial compensation paid to injured patients and their families.

Making a mistake is the only way you’ll be sued.

While frivolous lawsuits aren’t as rampant as you may believe, they do happen. And, even if you weren’t directly involved in an incident, a patient may still name you in a suit.

Even if a nurse has years of practice under their belt, or they take pride in the meticulousness of their care, nurses can be implicated in a suit even if they are not at fault.

If that happens and they don’t have malpractice insurance, they will be on the hook for their own legal defense and the liabilities that may follow.

Malpractice Coverage Offers Peace of Mind

Male nurse attended to a patient

Medical malpractice insurance isn’t just for doctors, and it isn’t just for the healthcare professional’s benefit, either.

Malpractice insurance coverage gives both nurses and the patients they care for peace of mind knowing that they will be taken care of in case of an incident. That is why medical malpractice insurance coverage is a must for every medical professional.

Nurses can also benefit from being covered by disability insurance. Learn more by reading Best Disability Insurance for Nurses.

Why use LeverageRx for choosing malpractice insurance for nurses?

LeverageRx will show you all your malpractice insurance options to help you find the best rate. We make it simple to compare rates on physician mortgage loans, disability insurance, student loan refinancing, and other financial services for medical professionals.

Our insurance experts focus solely on advising healthcare professionals. We’ve helped thousands of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals compare the best financial services and products.

Get started now by requesting a nursing malpractice insurance quote.