Malpractice Insurance: Having your own policy is a NECESSITY

  1. New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA)
    REPORT: April 2003

    Malpractice Insurance: Having your own policy is a NECESSITY!
    by Mark Genovese

    You may never have to use a professional liability policy, but it is extremely risky not to have one. You may have heard your nursing representative give a talk about individual insurance, but NYSNA can't emphasize its importance more.

    "One question frequently raised when NYSNA delivers practice and malpractice workshops is: 'Do I really need my own personal liability coverage, since my employer covers me?'" said Janet Haebler, senior associate director of NYSNA's Practice and Governmental Affairs program. "Employers often tell their nurses that additional liability coverage is unnecessary. But when performing competently within their legal scope of practice, nurses are vulnerable to lawsuits. And a nurse is always a nurse, whether employed or not. Every RN should possess her or his own professional liability coverage."

    "Obtaining professional liability insurance is a low-cost measure to protect your license," said Diane K. Salerno, NYSNA labor educator. "This is one issue in which RNs really need to rely on themselves."

    Common misconceptions about professional liability insurance:

    "I'm already covered by my employer"

    A healthcare facility need not carry professional liability insurance for RNs. The fact that a healthcare facility provides liability coverage for employees doesn't necessarily mean you will have coverage now or in the future. This is why it's important for you to obtain your own policy. You may not be covered by your employer in all instances:

    The policy may cover the facility, but not individual employees.
    It may have gaps in coverage. If you take a job with another facility, the policy won't cover you for an incident that may have occurred on your previous job. If you are out of work, the policy may not cover you for an incident that occurred when you were still employed.

    If a facility merges with another, closes, or goes bankrupt, the policy may no longer be in effect; the facility may fail to make a payment on the premium and lose its protection; and
    the policy may not cover you if you practice nursing at places other than your facility. To make sure they know where they stand, it's a good idea for RNs to ask their employers for a copy of their facility's policy.

    "I don't have many assets in my own name"

    Nursing malpractice suits can take years to settle. Even if you do not currently have assets in your own name, you may in the future, as you build a bank account or an investment portfolio or buy a home. If assets are jointly owned, they may not be completely immune from being used to satisfy a spouse's legal obligations.

    An individual professional liability policy may protect whatever assets you may have against potentially large legal expenses and liability you may incur as a result of a malpractice claim. Even if you believe you don't have - and won't have - any assets which need protection, professional liability coverage may provide for your legal defense should you be involved in a malpractice lawsuit, and compensate the injured party if you are found negligent.

    "I won't be sued because I don't have malpractice insurance"

    If you have any connection with a patient who makes a claim against your employer, you will most likely be named a party to the suit. You can even be sued in a circumstance where you contend you have not had contact with a patient who makes a claim against your employer.

    A lawyer for an injured plaintiff normally will sue everyone connected with a malpractice incident. If not, the lawyer may be sued for legal malpractice.

    How can you obtain insurance?
    If you don't yet have professional liability insurance, here is how you can get started.

    NYSNA endorses the Nurses Service Organization (NSO) and works directly with them to provide the best possible coverage for our RNs. The NSO also provides coverage for legal defense expenses. Any RN can obtain information about this insurance through a link on NYSNA's Web site at www.nysna.org; at NSO's Web site at www.nso.com; or by calling NSO at 800-247-1500.

    Need an Attorney?
    NYSNA's Practice and Governmental Affairs program offers guidelines for selecting an attorney, and can provide a list of names, although it does not endorse anyone on that list. You can also contact your local Bar Association for information on finding an attorney who specializes in malpractice. In NY, a good place to start is the New York State Bar Association's referral line, 800-342-3661; e-mail: lrs@ nysba.org; Web site: www.nysba.org.

    "Liability insurance is critical," Haebler said. "RNs are RNs 24/7, not just when they're on duty."

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  2. 68 Comments

  3. by   NursieRN
    Thanks for posting that, jt. I have my own malpractice insurance
    through NSO. It is very important to have your own, even if your
    employer says they have it for their employees. I hope I never
    need it, but I'd never be caught without it!
  4. by   KaroSnowQueen
    I have always had my own too, sure don't trust the facilities to cover for me!!!!!!
  5. by   kae rn
    Started carrying my own too this year. Legal fees are very expensive and anyone can sue anyone nowadays. My family doesn't deserve to be put in a financial bind because someone thinks they have a case against me. Hope to never use it, but you never get to choose your patients. People are becoming more desperate as the economy continues to take a downfall. Better to error on the side of caution is what I think.
  6. by   eddy
    Definately should have it!

    Definately should NOT tell anyone you have it!
  7. by   EmeraldNYL
    Thanks for the article! I'll get insurance as soon as I graduate.
  8. by   plumrn
    I had to give a deposition in a suit that I was not named in, but did care for the pt at one point. One of the 1st things my facility's lawyers asked was, "Who has their own liability insurance?"

    The lawyer said that if the plaintiff lawyer asks, we have to tell them if we do, or do not have insurance. He said he hoped they would not ask. I did have insurance, and they did not ask me, but they did ask everyone else during their deposition.

    I have a fear that if you have insurance, they will scrutinize your charting, and do whatever they can to find something they can twist to make you look guilty to a jury- the millions your insurance promises, would be all they might go after.

    Of course, I know all the reasons it makes since to have insurance, and I have already planned to purchase it again, but is their some truth to the above?
  9. by   niteshiftnurse
    To me, its a MUST to have your own insurance. I have malpractice insurance thru NSO. Very inexpensive, 89.00 per year
  10. by   niteshiftnurse
    Its also tax deductible
  11. by   katscan
    I've had my own malpractice insurance since 1973. The small fee is well worth the peace of mind that it brings to me. I know that if I am ever sued, I will have someone working for ME not THEM. They will defend me andI will not be lumped into a group situation.
  12. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Far as I KNOW NO LAWYER IS ALLOWED TO ASK WHO HAS MALPRACTICE INSURANCE and youare NOT required to divulge this!!!!!!!! It is illegal, far as I have been informed.
  13. by   Nurse Ratched
    I've been reading about the interesting concept of some docs "going bare" - going without insurance to minimize the incentive for an ambulance chaser to file lawsuits frivilously. They give up doing high-risk procedures at the same time, however, so the flip side is patients have less access to certain procedures. I know malpractice happens, and I don't minimize the suffering of those who are harmed through medical error, but among the many other topics involved in sorting out the mess of health care, we must include a discussion of tort reform.
  14. by   -jt
    Its a myth to think that if you dont have malpractice insurance, you wont be sued. You can be sued anyway, whether you have insurance or not, and then lose your house & assests if you have any, or a good portion of any future earnings paying off what the inexpensive insurance would have covered for you. As the article points out:

    If you have any connection with a patient who makes a claim against your employer, you will most likely be named a party to the suit. You can even be sued in a circumstance where you contend you have not had contact with a patient who makes a claim against your employer.

    A lawyer for an injured plaintiff normally will sue everyone connected with a malpractice incident. If the lawyer doesn't sue everyone connected - whether they have insurance or not, the client may then sue the lawyer for legal malpractice.

    Faced with that option, the lawyer is going to go after everyone involved, insurance or not.

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