What do I need to know about professional liability insurance for nurses?

professional liability insurance for nurses

One of our members submitted a question about what type of professional liability insurance for nurses she should purchase, especially since she is now certified in wound care.

wound care

By Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN

Questions about professional liability insurance are constantly raised by nurses in all areas of nursing practice.

Wound care nurses are no exception, and this topic was briefly covered in on our blog titled Wound Consulting Business: How to Get Started.

There is a great deal of important information for you to know as a wound care nurse before selecting a professional liability policy.

Before discussing that information, it is important to emphasize that as a practicing wound care nurse, you need to purchase your own professional liability insurance policy.

It is unwise to rely on an employer’s policy to protect you in the event you are named as a defendant in a lawsuit based on your wound care.

Employer policies usually protect the employer and not individual employees. Nor are employees named in the policy as an insured.

In most instances, nurse employees do not know what the policy covers, how much coverage is available to them when sued and what their obligations are when a suit is filed.

If you are a wound care nurse who establishes your own business, purchasing professional liability insurance for nurses is essential.

Obviously, if you are sued because of the wound care you provided and are without a professional liability insurance policy in which you are the named insured, the result is that you personally, and your personal assets, pay any monetary settlement or judgment in that case.

And, your own policy provides you with an attorney who represents you in any judicial or legal proceedings which are covered in the policy.

4 key elements of professional liability insurance for nurses

You’re probably wondering what you should look for when purchasing professional liability insurance for nurses. We detail some of the important, basic features to consider and discuss.

1. Type of policy

One component of the policy to review is whether the policy is a claims made or an occurrence policy. A claims made policy is less expensive, but only will cover a claim/suit that is filed while the policy is in effect.

If you purchase a claims made policy, you would need to purchase a “tail” coverage policy that would be at an additional expense to you, but would provide insurance coverage for the claim.

In contrast, an occurrence policy covers a claim/suit regardless of when it is filed so long as the incident that resulted in a claim took place while the policy was in effect.

An occurrence policy is more expensive, but provides you with more protection and eliminates the need to purchase “tail” coverage.

2. Amount of coverage

Obviously, the rule here is to purchase as much coverage as you can, based on your type of practice, any caps on the amount that would be paid if a settlement or judgment against you occurs, your assets, and the amount an injured party or parties can recover due to your nursing care or lack of nursing care.

The actual amount of coverage is usually expressed with two numbers:

  1. The first being the amount of coverage per claim.
  2. The second amount being the total coverage paid under the policy for a given year (aggregate amount).

It would look like this: $500,000 (/claim)/ $100,000 (aggregate).

3. What does the policy cover and exclude?

Because the member’s question centered on her now being certified, it is important that the insurance underwriter of your policy know you are certified, so the policy protects you at this level of nursing practice.

It may be that a more “standard” professional liability policy would not be appropriate and only the insurance agent you initiate your policy with can determine this.

In any event, the specific language in a particular policy may vary but should include coverage for your acts, omissions and errors in connection with your nursing practice as a certified wound care nurse that result in injury or death to a patient or others.

Today, coverage for professional licensure defense proceedings by state boards of nursing are covered almost universally in professional liability insurance for nurses. In addition to providing an attorney to represent you, the policy also may pay you for days missed from work to attend a deposition or the hearing, up to the policy’s stated limits.

Generally, professional liability insurance policies do not cover criminal acts, intentional torts, harassment claims, punitive damages and practicing outside the scope of your practice as defined by your state nurse practice act.

4. Your obligations under the policy

Insureds are most often responsible for cooperating with the insurance company in defending a suit, notifying the company if a suit is filed against you or you think a suit may be filed against you, and providing a full and honest description of the type and scope of your nursing practice and responsibilities.

The more you know and understand what professional liability insurance is and how it can protect you is essential. Additional information can be found in Frank Aviles’ article, “Let’s Be Frank: Liability Issues for the Wound Care Clinic and Nursing Services.”

When exploring the purchase of such a policy, you should consult with several insurance agents offering professional liability insurance for nurses, so you purchase the one that provides you with the protection you need.

Take one of our wound care courses or certification refreshers to keep your knowledge up to date.

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Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Brent’s posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.

 

 

 

   

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