Do I Need Malpractice Insurance as a Registered Nurse?

nurse buying malpractice insurance online
Written by
Jenna Elizabeth
February 6, 2024

Table of Contents

Are you on the fence about getting nursing malpractice insurance? If you are a registered nurse (RN) unsure whether to invest in liability insurance, it might be worth taking a closer look. 

Being insured can help reduce your personal risk but in exchange for an annual fee. In this article, we’ll explore cases where you might want malpractice or liability insurance and help you explore your options.

You Might Want to Have Coverage, Just in Case

 "I would hate to lose my job over something so simple that could be avoided." — Reddit registered nurse 

All the money and effort you put into getting through nursing school could be lost in the blink of an eye due to one malpractice incident. 

Nurses are known for the exemplary care they provide to patients day in and day out. However, humans are subject to error, so while it's up to you to discern whether or not you want to purchase nursing liability insurance, one of the best ways to safeguard yourself in the event of a medical malpractice claim or litigation is to secure coverage as an RN. 

Whether you are working for an organization or PRN nursing jobs, here's a simple breakdown of how nurses can navigate personal liability insurance and choose the best policy for them: 

What is nurse liability insurance?

What Is Malpractice Insurance and Why Get It? 

Nursing malpractice insurance is a type of insurance coverage that can shield a registered nurse from legal action or claims related to their professional services. 

Suppose a patient or their family files a lawsuit alleging negligence or harm caused by a nurse's actions. In that case, liability insurance can ensure that payment for a nurse's lost income and legal costs, such as a defense attorney and settlements, will be covered. 

What Are Other Terms for RN Liability Insurance?

Nursing malpractice insurance can also give nurses peace of mind, knowing their assets and reputation will be protected. Malpractice insurance is sometimes referred to as: 

  • Medical Malpractice Insurance
  • Professional Liability Insurance (PLI)
  • Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) 
  • Errors & Omissions Insurance (E&O)

Why Should I Buy Nurse Liability Insurance?

Another reason a registered nurse may consider purchasing liability insurance is because medical malpractice cases are rising, and an employer's liability insurance may not offer sufficient coverage for individual nurses. Furthermore, nurses who work as independent contractors or PRN nurses will not have any coverage from an employer because they are their own bosses.

Even though some healthcare facilities offer their staff members professional liability insurance, the coverage might have restrictions or exclusions. For example, an employer's policy will not cover a patient malpractice claim made to the State Board of Nursing (SBON).

Sometimes, these claims can be anonymous, depending on the state, and may be filed by a patient, a patient's patient's family member, or even a colleague. In this situation, having your own RN liability insurance can help safeguard your license. Read the most common reasons nurses lose their licenses to learn more about that topic.

Furthermore, if you are a per diem nurse covering facilities on “as-needed basis”, RN malpractice insurance can offer essential coverage in the event of a claim. In short, malpractice insurance provides the best defense against a bankrupting lawsuit that might arise while working as either a staff or an independent contractor nurse. 

What Are Common Malpractice Claims Filed Against Nurses? 

Common malpractice claims filed against nurses can range from minor medication errors to major errors, such as failing to properly monitor a patient, which can result in injuries or, in the worst-case scenario, death. If this happens, a nurse can be held accountable and sued for malpractice. 

The truth is, accidents do happen in nursing, regardless of whether you triple or quadruple-check everything. Consequently, nurses may be sued for malpractice for the following reasons: 

  • Medication errors (e.g., missed medications)
  • Failure to appropriately or efficiently monitor and assess patients 
  • Improper use of medical equipment
  • Inadequate communication with patients and healthcare team that leads to injury
  • Breaches in patient confidentiality 
  • Failure to act or respond when action is required (e.g., not reporting a patient's fall, low oxygen saturation levels, unchecked cardiac arrest, etc.)

Other malpractice claims may involve neglecting to follow established protocols/policies, improper delegation of tasks, and lack of informed consent. 

As a result, while nurses are encouraged to consistently uphold professional standards of care to prevent these claims and ensure patient safety, human error is inevitable. Having malpractice insurance, therefore, can provide nurses an additional layer of protection and help mitigate any potential financial liabilities. 

What Types of Malpractice Insurance Are Available for Nurses?

Even if a nurse is not found liable, defending against a malpractice lawsuit can be costly. Attorney fees, court costs, and witness fees are a few expenses that can be covered by professional liability insurance. Without malpractice insurance, nurses may have to pay these costs out of pocket, which can be financially draining. 

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP):

"Malpractice insurance protects nurse practitioners (NPs) and other clinicians from the costs associated with claims of negligence or incompetence, such as liability and legal defense." 

What Types of Malpractice Insurance are Available?

In terms of nursing malpractice insurance, there are two primary categories: 

  • Occurrence-based insurance
  • Claims-made insurance

Claims-made malpractice insurance covers claims made and reported during the policy period, which means the claim must be filed while the policy is in effect. It may also include a retroactive active date or an extended reporting feature (which acknowledges claims that occur before or after the policy started). 

On the other hand, occurrence-based insurance covers any malpractice incident during the policy period, regardless of when a claim is filed.

Occurrence-based malpractice insurance provides coverage regardless of when the claim arises. In contrast, claims-made malpractice coverage is only available if the incident and the claim occurred when the policy was active. If a claim is filed after the expiration date of a claims-made policy, the claim will not be covered. 

Which Nursing Liability Insurance Is Better and What's the Cost?

Some insurance experts say there is no significant advantage to having claims-made vs. occurrence coverage and choosing a policy will depend on your situation. However, because of how long the policy is active, occurrence insurance policies may be more expensive than claim-based policies. At the same time, occurrence coverage may be better suited for PRN nurses because it provides coverage even when changing jobs or locations. 

According to the Journal of Radiology in Nursing, professional liability insurance costs are affordable, and RNs pay an average of $100 in annual premiums for malpractice insurance. However, a few factors can influence the amount of money you may spend on premiums, such as how long you have been working as a nursing professional, years of education, and the state and facility where you work. The cost of malpractice insurance can vary significantly based on individual circumstances, so shopping around and comparing rates is a good strategy. 

Are There Additional Insurance Policies to Protect Nurses?

Generally, occurrence and claims-made policies are the two best options for nurses looking for nursing liability insurance. In a writeup about malpractice insurance by the American Nurse Journal, a clinical and peer-reviewed journal by the American Nurses Association (ANA):

"typical malpractice insurance policies have limits ranging from $1,000,000 (claim) to $6,000,000 (aggregate), with a $10,000 per claim/$25,000 aggregate to cover disciplinary actions by regulatory boards such as the state board of nursing."

In addition to acquiring either a claims-made or occurrence insurance policy, you can add other insurance that could defend you against malpractice claims. Examples of additional malpractice insurance are as follows:

  • Worker's Compensation Insurance: Worker's compensation insurance protects nurses financially in the event of work-related injuries or illnesses. This type of insurance typically covers medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, and disability benefits. Worker's compensation can also ensure that nurses are compensated for time away from work due to a work-related incident.
  • Commercial Property Insurance: Commercial property insurance for nurses typically covers any physical assets or property owned by a nurse or their practice. For instance, commercial property insurance can safeguard a nurse against possible loss or damage in theft, fires, or natural disasters. This type of insurance can also help pay for costs associated with interruptions in professional services due to harm or damage brought on by unforeseen circumstances. 

Where Can I Find Malpractice Insurance? 

Choosing the right malpractice insurance involves researching companies specializing in professional liability coverage according to your nursing specialty. Consider coverage limits, premiums, reputation, and customer reviews when comparing RN malpractice insurance options. You can also look at the list of questions to ask when purchasing malpractice insurance below.

Investigating the following two professional liability insurance providers is a brilliant place to start searching for a malpractice insurance policy. Both of these companies specialize in providing malpractice insurance to healthcare professionals: 

Questions to Ask When Choosing Malpractice Insurance

When shopping around for malpractice insurance, asking the right questions is essential to get the proper coverage. These questions could range from requesting specific information about the cost of your malpractice premium to inquiring about the maximum amount the insurance policy will pay for a claim. In addition, here are some key questions to consider:

  1. What type of malpractice coverage do I need?
  2. What are my policy limits? 
  3. Does the policy include tail coverage?
  4. Are there any deductibles?
  5. What is the claims process?
  6. Are there any additional features/benefits that come with the policy?
  7. What is the insurance provider's reputation and financial stability?

Remember, when choosing malpractice insurance, it's essential to thoroughly review the policy documents, ask specific questions, and compare multiple insurance providers before deciding. As such, feel free to add to this list and customize questions according to your needs. 

One more tip: don't wait until the last minute to choose a malpractice policy; this process should take some time. If you feel overwhelmed by options, ask a lawyer to help you choose the right RN malpractice insurance.

a person holding hand for insurance coverage or security
Registered nurses can feel secure when they are protected with liability insurance.

Protecting Yourself as a Nurse

Finding the correct malpractice insurance requires time and effort, but the payoff is well worth it by not having to pay large sums of money out of pocket in case of a malpractice allegation. Moreover, medical malpractice insurance for nurses is relatively inexpensive, and many nursing professionals can protect themselves against liability claims of up to $1,000,000.

Professional liability insurance is essential for providing a nurse with financial protection in the case of a malpractice lawsuit. Nursing malpractice insurance can also maintain a nurse's professional reputation and credibility. Finally, having malpractice insurance as a nurse can give you the peace of mind to concentrate on the most crucial part of your work: giving your patients compassionate, high-quality care. 

Are you looking to explore health insurance for per diem nurses? Find the coverage you need today with our ultimate guide on establishing health insurance as an independent contract nurse. 

Sources: 

  1. Professional Liability Insurance: What All Nurses Should Know
  2. My American Nurse: Individual Nurse Liability Insurance
  3. Medical Economics: Malpractice Rates on the Rise
Blog published on:
February 6, 2024

Meet Jenna, a contributing writer at Nursa who writes about healthcare news and updates, empathy and compassion for nurses, how to show staff appreciation and increase retention, and guides that help nurses navigate career pathways.

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