Who's Responsible For Nurse Malpractice?

When people think of medical malpractice, doctors are typically the first people to come to mind. However, nurses can also be guilty of medical malpractice. According to the National Practitioner Data Bank, 392,100 adverse actions were taken against nurses between 2004 and 2014 and 154,621 medical malpractice payments were made by them or on their behalf during that same time period. When a nurse makes a mistake and injures a patient, however, it can be difficult to determine who to file a claim against. Here's what you need to know to ensure you're suing the right people.

The Hospital vs. The Doctor

In general, a nurse either works for a particular medical facility or a private doctor. If the nurse worked for a private doctor, then determining liability is fairly easy. That particular doctor would be on the hook for any damages the nurse caused because vicarious liability makes the medical professional responsible for the actions of his or her employees.

However, establishing liability at a medical facility such as a hospital may be a little more challenging because the actual at-fault party may be the attending doctor, even though the nurse is an employee of the company.

The medical facility may be liable if:

  • The company employed the nurse
  • The nurse was working in his or her capacity at the time of the patient's injury
  • The nurse was under the control of a doctor who was not employed by the facility (e.g. an independent doctor with visiting privileges)

However, an attending doctor may be held liable for a nurse's actions at the medical facility if:

  • The nurse was under the doctor's supervision when the injury occurred
  • The doctor was present at the time of the injury
  • The doctor had enough control over the nurse's actions to prevent the injury

For instance, a doctor examining a patient at a hospital asks the nurse to administer a shot of medication. However, the nurse gave the patient too much, injuring the person. The doctor could be held liable because the nurse was following his instructions and the doctor should have been monitoring the nurse's actions to ensure they were being followed correctly.

Proving Nurse Malpractice

Proving liability for nurse malpractice is only one aspect of this type of case. You will also have to prove the four elements of malpractice were true:

  • The nurse had a duty to care for the patient
  • The nurse breached that duty in some way
  • The breach caused an injury
  • The injury resulted in compensable damages

Medical malpractice cases can be very challenging to litigate, so it's essential that if you were harmed by a nurse to hire a medical malpractice lawyer to help you present a compelling case before the court. To find out more, speak with someone like Davidson Law Center Inc.