Malpractice Insurance: Having your own policy is a NECESSITY

Students General Students


posted in another discussion but also important for student nurses to know:

from the

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 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 "

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; at NSO's Web site at; 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@; Web site:

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


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Hellllllo Nurse, BSN, RN

3 Articles; 3,563 Posts

Did you know that if you have State Farm homeowner's insurance, you are eligable for RN malpractice ins through State Farm?

My agent quoted me a price of $23.00 per year with coverage up to $1,000,000. per incident, up to three incidents per year.

Katnip, RN

2,904 Posts

When you look for a policy, also look for coverage of lawyers to defend you, not just a liablity number.


593 Posts

Originally posted by cyberkat

When you look for a policy, also look for coverage of lawyers to defend you, not just a liablity number.

Great advice cyberkat, it is amazing how expensive it can be for legal fees.



2,709 Posts

Our school required us to have our own before entering the nursing program, & then encouraged us to keep it after graduation. Ive had the Nurses Service Organization (NSO) since 1980. At that time, their student rate was just $20/yr - and 23 years later, it still is. As an RN, I pay only $89/yr for $1 million/$6 million in malpractice coverage and am also covered for legal defense expenses, license protection, assault coverage (nurses do get assaulted on occassion), and personal liability protection. Its so inexpensive that its not worth the risk of not having it.

NSO has a very informative website and a special section for students.


216 Posts

When a lawyer came and talked to our school about she said that it was definitely not in our best interest (unless we had a lot of assets) when we become nurses to have malpractice insurance if our employer has it on us. If you have it individiually than your employer will not necessarily go to bat for you or protect you and you are open to all kinds of suits. However, if the employer is the only one with malpractice on you then the employer is the one sued and will definitely cover your butt! This made sense to me.


2,709 Posts

Dont put all your stock into our employers coming to our rescue cause that may not always be true and the problem is that you dont find out if it is or not until you are stuck in the situation. That can be a risky & expensive shock. The only thing definite that many of them do is take care of their own interests first. The point is that if you have private insurance for the few dollars a year that it costs, you dont have to hope your employer can or will go to bat for you or worry about any loopholes in their policy. As you can see in the article, there are instances where your employers coverage may not cover you. Then what? In some cases, the hospital isnt sued at all - just the RN and/or MD is. But in other cases where the hospital is sued for something the RN did wrong, after they pay the patient off, the hospital can turn right around and sue the nurse itself to recoup their losses. Its not in your best interest in that case to be represented by the hospitals own lawyer. Maybe the lawyer who spoke at your school should read the article at the top here. It explains why her take on it is misconceptions. We've unfortunately learned the hard way that the reality, many times, is quite the opposite of what she said.


216 Posts

Originally posted by -jt

I think this was the case the lawyer made....that if the RN does not have malpractice insurance than it will be the hospital who IS sued rather than the RN. She said lawyers go where the money is and if there was no malpractice insurance then they would basically not sue the RN but rather go for the "real" money. That was just what I understood her position to be. This lawyer handles a big majority of our state's malpractice cases.

We have another lawyer coming next week. I will print out your information and see if he agrees and if so, why.

Thank you.

Hellllllo Nurse, BSN, RN

3 Articles; 3,563 Posts

Can't you get and keep it a secret?

How can the hospital or a plaintiff find out without you telling them?


2,709 Posts

Not always. If the RN is named in a suit and has only the hospitals insurance, she can still be sued - and the hospital insurance defends her. That doesnt mean she gets off the hook and the hospital gets sued instead. She gets sued and has to hope the hospital policy is paid up, shes fully covered, and there are no loopholes in the policy.

This is not a definite. It may be one strategy but its no guarantee that it always works out that way. The point is to protect yourself from the situations where it may not.

There may not be insurance money, but there are your future earnings, future assets, bank accounts, property, etc. Its risky to believe that you wont ever be sued just because you dont have insurance or enough assets at the moment to make it worthwhile for them.

One nurse I know of thats involved in a lawsuit now didnt have her own insurance & had very little assets. Her hospital was sued for a case she was involved in & she thought the lawyers wouldnt go after her because she's "just a nurse" & didnt have much, but she still got named in the lawsuit anyway and is in chapter 11 bankruptcy now because of it. Very sad.


42 Posts

One of our instructors is an attorney and she told us it was a really good idea to have of our own in addition to the hospital's. Face it-- if the hospital gets sued who is going to be their first priority- also, she said that if we have our own insurance we're covered 24/7. Often hospital insurance will only cover us while we're working- I know that if I ever have to perform CPR in a restaurant or if I pass a car accident and help- I want to be sure I'm covered. I know there are good samaritan laws but I'll feel safer knowing that I have my own insurance. Some insurance companies will only charge new grads half the first year.


216 Posts

Hey, Well the second attorney came and talked to our school and he said he didn't know what the other attorney had told us (he was from a different state) but he said he highly recommended having and it is VERY affordable. He was a nurse in the past and has kept his for 10 years although he is now a lawyer so........there's two conflicting views. Guess I will get it since it is so cheap and if you are a member of the National Student Nurses Association--even cheaper.

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