Protecting Those Who Care: Essential Insurance Needs for Nurses

By: Ben Cavallo, CIC, AAI, CISR

Together with partner Keith Signoriello, Ben Cavallo is the principal and co-owner of C&S Insurance.

Happy National Nurses Week! Nurses Week is an annual celebration dedicated to recognizing and honoring the profound impact nurses have on patients, families, and communities across the country. It typically occurs in the second week of May, starting on May 6th and ending on May 12th, which is the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

If you’ve recently become a nurse or are looking to study nursing, something you may not have considered before is whether or not you should purchase insurance specific to your career. One coverage that is highly recommended for nurses to acquire to protect themselves in their medical practice is professional liability insurance or medical malpractice insurance.

What is medical malpractice insurance?

A form of professional liability insurance, medical malpractice insurance protects those working in medical professions if a patient or a patient’s representative brings legal action against them. Such legal action may involve claims that the nurse, doctor, or other medical professional is guilty of negligence or omission of appropriate care and is responsible for causing injury, illness, or death.

We tend to think of doctors when we hear about malpractice claims, but the truth is that they can impact nurses, too. No matter how careful, meticulous, and skilled you are at your job, if you’re working in the medical field, you are at risk of being named in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Of course, being named in such a lawsuit does not automatically mean you’re guilty—but defending yourself in court can still be costly. That’s why investing in medical malpractice insurance can be a good idea.

You should always do your research to understand the risks involved in your career and decide for yourself whether such insurance is necessary or beneficial for you. Nurses who work in higher-risk areas, such as labor and delivery, emergency rooms, nursing homes, or home health aids, should seriously consider these policies.

Why should I get medical malpractice insurance as a nurse?

One good reason to acquire professional liability insurance is because medical malpractice lawsuits are increasing in frequency. There are between 15,000 and 19,000 of these lawsuits filed every year, and the last few years have seen a rise.

In fact, there has been a rise in lawsuits against nurses in particular. Recently, there have been an increased number of Adverse Action Reports (AAR) and Medical Malpractice Payment Reports (MMPR) involving Registered Nurses (RNs) than any other types of medical professionals.

As a nurse, you may be offered a certain level of legal protection by your employer, depending on their malpractice policy. Still, many individual nurses purchase professional liability insurance for themselves to have extra security. If you’re operating your own practice, you should certainly look into purchasing medical malpractice insurance.

How much does medical malpractice insurance cost for nurses?

The average cost for nurses to purchase professional liability insurance is about $100 per year. However, prices vary depending on factors including your level of experience, your education, your state, your work setting, and how many hours you work. For context, the average medical malpractice claim pays out over $200,000.

There are two types of medical malpractice insurance—claims-made policies and occurrence-based policies. Occurrence-based policies provide more coverage but have a higher price tag.

Claims-made policies cover claims from patients only if the policy was in effect when the treatment was administered and the claim was made—so it is not effective after the policy has expired. On the other hand, occurrence-based policies cover claims for any incident that occurred while the policy was in effect, even if it has since expired—avoiding this issue.

What does medical malpractice insurance cover?

Coverage differs between providers, but medical malpractice insurance generally covers the costs of:

  • Bodily injury
  • Property damage
  • Personal injuries including to mental health
  • Medical expenses

Some policies may also cover the costs of first aid, assault charges, incorrect advice, loss of income from attending trials and depositions, HIPAA violations, slander, and libel.

There are limits to what this type of insurance will cover, including dishonest or criminal acts and claims from patients regarding situations of sexual harassment or reckless disregard.

Most medical malpractice insurance policies cover up to $1 million in liability and have a limit on the total payout per insurance policy period of $6 million.

Additional Coverages to Consider

There are other types of insurance nurses should consider, including a strong auto insurance policy. At C&S, we offer exclusive auto insurance discounts to members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA). Read on to learn more about why auto insurance is important for nurses.

If you drive, you probably already have car insurance. But here are a few reasons why auto insurance is of particular importance for nurses, and why you may consider investing in a new policy.

First off, if you’re a home health professional, you probably drive a lot. Home health professionals drove more than 7.9 billion total miles in 2013, according to estimates. But in this profession, it’s generally only required to have the state-mandated minimum auto insurance policy. It would make a lot of sense for nurses who spend so much time driving to have a comprehensive or collision policy.

Second, many nurses drive at night due to their shifts, which makes them more vulnerable to accidents. Nighttime driving reduces visual function, an effect that is only exacerbated by age and visual impairments. Even the best drivers with 20/20 vision face danger from the glare of traffic lights and headlights. One study found that even though only 9% of driving occurs in the period between sunset and sunrise, 49% of fatal accidents happen during this time. This makes nighttime driving nine times deadlier than daytime driving. If you’re feeling drowsy before or after work, the danger only heightens.

Lastly, severe weather may pose a greater risk to nurses and other health professionals than the average driver. This is because healthcare workers are expected to go to work in bad weather. Rain, snow, sleet, wind, and hail are all factors that increase the risk of accidents, so this may put nurses at a higher likelihood of getting into an accident on the way to or from work.

For these reasons, having a good auto insurance policy is a great idea for nurses. Learn more about our nurses’ discount program and get a quote to see if it’s right for you.