“Should I carry my own malpractice insurance?” That’s a question I hear quite a lot.
As an employee, your employer is responsible for your actions as long as you are acting within the scope of your responsibilities. If you do something that is clearly outside that scope, your employer will not cover you. Some extreme examples are having inappropriate relations with a patient, purposefully injuring a patient or practicing medicine without a license.
Choosing to have your own malpractice insurance is a personal choice. The benefit of having your own malpractice insurance is that should a matter arise, you will have the right to your own attorney. The downside is that, in addition to your employer, it may subject you to being named individually as a defendant as well if such a matter should arise. The insurance is also an excess policy, which means it will not kick in until other insurance is used up.
If you choose to have malpractice insurance, check to see if your State has any caps or special funds. If they do, make sure that the insurance company that you choose will participate in those caps or funds so that you can get the protection of those programs.
For example, in Indiana, a healthcare provider’s liability is limited to One-Million-Two-Hundred-Fifty-Thousand-Dollars ($1,250,000.00) but the healthcare provider is only required to pay $250,000. However, in order to qualify for the $250,000 limit, a healthcare provider must voluntarily participate in and pay extra money to the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund.
A healthcare provider is responsible only for the first Two-Hundred-Fifty-Thousand-Dollars ($250,000.00). If an Indiana healthcare provider, like most nurse policies, has coverage for a Million-Dollars ($1,000,000.00), they can be seen as an additional pocket of money.
Nursing malpractice insurance is relatively inexpensive and, as I noted, having your own insurance affords you that right to have your own attorney if a matter comes up. It is also advisable to have your own attorney if the hospital’s interests are different than your own. If your position is terminated over the incident or if you feel that the hospital will not support you in the care that you provided, it is advisable to have your own attorney.
It is also advisable that you seek the advice of an attorney should you be named in a suit or be asked to take a deposition. Any testimony you provide under oath can be given to the State Board of Nursing for further action if the Board deems such is necessary.
Another advantage of having your own malpractice insurance is that some insurance has a license disciplinary defense fund. This means that if you are called to appear before the Board or must respond to a Board inquiry, you may be entitled to recover some of the attorney’s fees that you pay. This is an extra benefit of the policy. However, keep in mind that they are for reimbursement purposes meaning that the policy will reimburse you or your attorney after the matter is concluded.
The best defense is a strong offense. By practicing defensive nursing care, charting thoroughly and being proactive with your care, it will save you a lot a time and trouble in the future. After a long day, it is difficult to have the energy to sit down and chart but imagine picking up a chart two to three after the alleged malpractice occurred and trying to remember what happened. I would challenge you to review a chart that you documented on a patient who you cared for six months ago and just see how well your recollection is and how well your notes protect you.