You’ve probably heard nurses staunchly say “you absolutely must have it” or having it “makes you look guilty.”
How does something relatively inexpensive become a hot topic?
Seriously though, liability insurance for nurses is an important — and surprisingly polarizing — subject in the nursing community.
Professional liability/malpractice insurance helps cover you against claims of errors made by you while performing your job as a nurse.
Which sounds like a pretty smart thing to have.
You may already have insurance because you were required as a student or employee to have coverage.
Or you might be wondering if you need it?
While numbers from an ANA article show a relatively small number of nurses have paid out claims against them — 2,311 from 1998 to 2001 — that number is rising. It’s a trend both the ANA and NSO (a major nurse malpractice insurance provider) don’t see going down.
According to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) from 1998 to 2001, the number of malpractice payments from nurses increased 253 to 413.
That doesn’t include how many cases were dismissed against nurses.
Interested yet? Let’s take a better look at liability insurance and how to decide if it’s right for you.
If you would rather watch a video on the topic, check out my youtube video on liability insurance below.
What is nurse liability insurance?
According to NSO, liability insurance helps protect you from claims of errors made by you while performing your job as a nurse.
The important term here is “claims”, in reality there only needs to be a perceived error to file a claim against you. You may have done nothing wrong but a patient can still sue you and you would have to defend yourself.
If you are named in a complaint — even if you aren’t found to be responsible — you may still incur legal expenses, which can be disastrous to your finances.
Two types of policies
- Claims-made — This type covers incidents that occur during the policy period and only if the claim is reported during that period. Meaning if you carried a claims-made policy in 2019 and a claim was filed against you in the same year, you’re likely covered. But if a claim is filed in 2020, you wouldn’t be covered.
- Occurrence-type — covers incidents occurring during the policy period, regardless of when the claim is reported. If an incident occurred in 2019 when you had your policy, but the claim wasn’t filed until a later year, you would still be covered.
How much does nurse malpractice insurance cost?
Most nurses can get $1,000,000 of coverage for the price of about $100 per year. (You’ll need to independently verify what your coverage would cost) Check out a few of the most well-known carriers further down in this post.
What can nurses get sued for?
Let’s be real — that’s what you need to know — how vulnerable am I?
Five primary factors lead to claims of nursing negligence, according to the American Journal of Nursing
- Failure to follow accepted standards of care
- Failure to use medical equipment responsibly and correctly
- Failure to assess and monitor patient health
- Failure to document and communicate patient health status
- Failure to act in the interests of the patient as a patient advocate
Sadly, working conditions are rarely perfect. Forces outside of your control may affect how well you can do your job.
These may include:
- Staffing changes
- Charting requirements
- Patient ratios
- Ancillary help
During any given shift, one or more of these factors may affect your ability to provide the level of care you were trained to perform. These are many of the same factors that lead to burnout and nurses leaving the profession and bedside — arguably, we wish they weren’t a problem, but we would have to have our head in the sand to act like everything is in our control.
Can you think of something that’s made you a bit nervous recently while working?
Myths that may keep you from getting malpractice insurance
I may as well call this section — your coworkers are medical professionals, not skydivers, would you trust them to pack your parachute?
These are the most common reasons I hear nurses provide for why they don’t need malpractice insurance. Let’s take a look at what’s really behind them.
You look guilty if you have liability insurance
Your liability insurance status is not public information. Let me repeat that for everyone in the back, NOT PUBLIC INFORMATION.
There is no way for a plaintiff to know if you are a “good money target.” During discovery, the information will become available. But at that point, you are already named and your role in a specific incident is going to be scrutinized.
Only physicians get sued
Nurses increasingly are being named in suits. We’ve fought to be seen as autonomous healthcare providers, and that comes with an added responsibility to defend our actions and decision making.
Often when claims are filed, all healthcare providers involved will be named in the suit. During the discovery phase, more information is made available that helps determine whether you will be dropped from the claim.
You’ll only be sued if you make a mistake
You may not have done anything wrong and still find yourself named in a suit. A suit can be filed if a patient thinks you made a mistake. The crappy thing here is that you have to defend yourself, this costs money.
Malpractice insurance helps by assigning you an attorney who’s sole responsibility is protecting you.
NSO has one story displayed on their site where they covered a nurse’s defense which took years. Ultimately, the nurse won the claim but NSO paid out approximately $500k in their defense. I don’t know about you, but I do not have and never want to be forced to find $500,000 to defend myself.
Your employer’s policy covers you
First and foremost an employer’s policy is there to cover their behind. If it is not in their best interest to protect you, they may leave you high and dry.
Have you seen or requested a copy of their policy? It may include gaps or exclusions you are not aware of. I’m pretty sure I don’t know any nurses that have ever asked to review an employer’s policy (including me).
In the event you are covered by an employer’s policy, you may not have a choice about who represents you. Under a personal policy, you work independently with an attorney who is assigned to your cause.
Employer policies also have policy limits, you might be stuck shouldering unexpected out of pocket expenses.
If you leave your role before a lawsuit is filed, you may not be covered by your employer anymore. Many lawsuits are filed a year or more after the fact. Personal liability insurance can move with you and is not dependent upon your employer.
Your employer policy does not cover you outside of work. If you do any type of volunteer work, offer assistance to neighbors, provide first aid, or respond to the scene of an accident you can be held responsible for your actions. Personal liability insurance covers you 24 hours a day, not just while you are at work.
Additional coverage likely to not be offered by your employer
Individual liability policies include additional perks that can come in handy. Especially if you don’t stop that nursing state of mind when you clock out of your shift.
Many personal liability coverage policies include additional benefits:
- coverage for assault
- first-aid expenses
- violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
- libel or slander
- property damage
- license protection benefits
You’ll need to verify additional coverage options with each carrier as they may vary.
Commonly asked questions, FAQs
Do nurses have to carry medical malpractice insurance?
It depends. Employers may choose to make it a condition of employment that you carry liability insurance, especially if you work as a contract employee.
While working as a CCT nurse it was a requirement of the job that I provided proof of coverage.
If you work in a hospital, it is not as common to require this insurance. But is it a good idea? According to the ANA, 60% of negligence complaints were from acute care facilities.
How much is liability insurance for a nurse?
Surprisingly affordable! In most states, you can find policies for <$100 but it does depend upon a few factors including location and type of work.
What companies offer professional liability insurance?
Below are three of the most well-known nurse liability insurance providers. It’s best to receive quotes from multiple companies and compare benefits before making a decision.
Nurses Service Organization (NSO)
NSO is one of the largest providers of professional liability insurance for nurses. According to their site they cover 500,000+ nurses in the US. You can receive an instant quote and apply for coverage here.
Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO)
Often this company is recommended as a provider of nurse malpractice insurance. They currently partner with their sister company (NSO) to offer this benefit to nurses and recommend applying through the NSO site. You can find the application link here.
HPSO does offer additional consulting liability protection for nurses for $25/year.
This coverage helps protect you if you are offering education or consulting services in the following areas:
- Medical administration
- Legal consultation
- Speaking at seminars
- Teaching or acting as an expert witness
They also offer coverage specific to the case management role.
Find out about their additional insurance options for consulting, education, and case management here.
Proliability has been offering malpractice insurance for health professions since 1949.
You can save on coverage through Proliability by
- Working at a Magnet Facility
- Holding a profession certification
- Attending approved risk management seminars/training
- Working in a unit that holds a Beacon Award
Click here to find out more about coverage through Proliability.
Why does this matter to personal finance?
Personal liability insurance is a safeguard to protect everything you have worked so hard to build during your career — savings, investments, property. It would be devastating to lose the life you built over expenses incurred during a lawsuit. The fact that something as simple as a $100 policy can safeguard your lifestyle is an insanely good deal.
If you are struggling with how to pay for a policy check out this article on making your first money plan.
Is NSO good malpractice insurance?
Nurses Service Organization (NSO) is a provider of liability insurance for nurses. They are one of the most well-known companies, but there are other options available. I encourage you to get quotes from a few companies and compare coverage before you make a decision.
Should nursing students get malpractice insurance?
Many nursing students are required to carry policies. A benefit of being a student is the policies are often greatly discounted. Proper insurance coverage is a good practice to start in nursing school and continue through your professional life. If you maintain proper coverage you don’t have to worry about gaps in protection.
Do I need nurse malpractice insurance if I work remotely?
You may not be performing physical components of a nursing position but you use your knowledge, skills, and expertise to perform your job.
One type of position is phone triage where you assess patients and help them receive the level of medical attention they need. What if the patient has a bad outcome?
Like any other nursing position, there is risk associated and you are often performing your job with great autonomy.
Be a wise consumer
Read your malpractice policy — know what you are paying for. Ask questions and make sure you understand the answers. If you are unsure what something will cover, ask the provider to explain it to you.
There is nothing worse than thinking you are covered and finding out later it’s not an included policy benefit.
Is nurse liability insurance worth it?
Only you can decide if liability coverage is right for you. I say this to force you to take responsibility for this decision.
Stop listening to the nurses who say you absolutely must or shouldn’t have it. Do your research, look at the numbers, and confidently come to your own decision.
Some of you have a higher risk tolerance. Others enjoy the peace of mind in having insurance. I can’t tell you what’s right for you.
One nurse commented on my Tiktok “I have liability insurance for less than 2 Starbucks drinks a month. Worth the peace of mind. I’m a number, not anything the hospital will fight for.”
But since this is my site, I’ll share that it’s worth it for me. I honestly don’t remember if I had insurance as a student, but I’ve had coverage for as long as I can remember as a nurse. It’s a minimal expense for peace of mind and knowing that I’m doing everything possible to protect the life I’ve built outside of work.
*There are no affiliate links in this post — I provide the above information purely for education and entertainment purposes. I do not work with or for insurance companies.