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Do Nurses Need Liability Insurance?

nurse jobs, do nurses need liability insurance
Marek Uliasz/123RF.com

The short answer? Probably. Nurses do get sued, even good ones who haven’t done anything wrong. Liability insurance protects nurses from losing personal property in a lawsuit, and it adds a layer of protection in case your state Board of Nursing summons you for a hearing.

But I’m already covered through work…”

As a nurse, you are probably already covered under your hospital’s insurance. However, there are some reasons that your employee coverage may not be enough:

  • Claims-made insurance may not cover suits filed after you have terminated your employment
  • Policy limits may not be high enough to protect you and all your co-workers
  • Policy limits may not cover you if you did anything outside the regulations of your employer.
  • Coverage may not include lost wage reimbursement or licensing board hearing reimbursement

Also, if you are covered under your hospital’s insurance, then the attorney representing you represents your hospital first and foremost and protects the hospital’s interests over your own.

Beyond the job

Personal liability coverage will also provide legal representation if you ever have to defend your license before your state Board of Nursing, which your employer’s coverage would not. It also provides coverage if you want to work as a volunteer for your church, local homeless shelter, disaster relief, etc., which your employer’s coverage would not cover, either. You are covered by your employer only during the actual time you are working for them at their facility.

Will it make me a target?

One question that arises is that if you have private insurance, will that make you more likely to be sued? If you don’t have the insurance, the chances are less likely. The theory is that they go after whoever has the deepest pockets. The argument sounds good, but there is no way of knowing which nurses have insurance until after a lawsuit is filed. However, there are plenty of anecdotal cases where a particular nurse was singled out in a lawsuit because of her insurance, and lots of time and attention was paid to her in court to attempt to make the case her “fault.”

How to choose

If you are interested in liability insurance, talk to your insurance agent. Many times you can just add the coverage to your existing homeowner’s policy for as little $100-200 a year. But you need to carefully read through the coverage. Another option is to look online – there are half a dozen well-known companies in the business.

When comparing insurance quotes, you will need to look at the policy’s “limits of liability,” or the maximum amount of coverage agreed upon in the insurance contract that the company would pay in the event of a loss. For example, a $1,000,000/$6,000,000 limit means that the most that would be paid on any one claim is $1,000,000, and the number of $1,000,000 claims that could be paid on your behalf in a year is 6, for a total annual aggregate of $6,000,000.

Additionally, look at the attorney fee reimbursement and find out what the local averages are. Some policies only cover 50% or less of the going hourly rate for attorneys. You would have to cover the difference.

What do I do?

In the end, it’s a personal decision, and one to be made carefully, after reviewing your specialty (OB, for example, is far more rife with lawsuits than psych), your practice (both at work and if you volunteer), and your financial situation.

Even though I’m not terribly concerned about a lawsuit, the potential of having to face my state Board of Nursing without representation, even though I have no reason to think I would have to do so, may just be the tipping point that sends me insurance hunting!

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About Angie Best-Boss RN

Angie Best-Boss, ASN, BA, MDiv is a psychiatric nurse and freelance writer from the Indianapolis, Indiana area. Angie has three daughters and can usually be found with her nose in a book, crafting or, in warm weather, geocaching.