Traveling Nurses Must Have Appropriate Professional Liability Insurance

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

We are often asked what we consider to be the biggest problem that a nurse has in defending herself in a complaint against her license.  In our opinion, it is not having the financial resources to retain the services of an experienced attorney to defend her.  Because of this, we believe that any nurse, especially traveling nurses working at a hospital, skilled nursing facility, home health agency, assisted living facility, medical group, or any other organization must have her own personal professional liability policy that provides ample insurance coverage for professional license defense expenses.

Most Complaints Made Against Nurses are Filed by Employers.

In our experience, most of the complaints filed against nurse professionals come from employers.  In many cases, a patient will complain to the employer and the employer will file the complaint.  In others, the employer initiates the complaint because of substandard performance, documentation problems, allegations of theft or drug diversion, allegations of falsification of documents or records, etc.  When this happens, in most cases the employer terminates the nurse.  This is why we say that a nurse must have her own professional liability insurance policy.

We see a great many more complaints filed against a nurse’s license that she then must defend, than we ever see civil claims for damages.

Many nurses work under the incorrect assumption that they are “insured” by their employer or their agency or that their employer’s or agency’s insurance covers them.  This is a fallacy, especially when it comes to defending against a complaint made against one’s nursing license.  If your employer or agency is the one that files the complaint against you, you don’t really think that your employer or agency is going to cover the legal expenses associated with your defense, do you?

Some hospitals and health organizations are notorious about firing nurses who have any discrepancies in drug counts or who have documentation errors.  This often results in a complaint to the Department of Health (DOH) against the nurse’s license.

Furthermore, we are all aware of the phenomenon with the traveling nurse, the person who is no longer there, getting all of the blame for any problem or incident that come up.  The ones that are still at the facility, the ones who are conducting the investigation on the incident, are far less likely to find blame with their friends and colleagues who are still there.

Just when you need it the most, you may find yourself out of a job, with no income, and no money to pay for a legal defense.  This may ultimately lead to your losing your nursing license and your ability to ever work as a health professional again.

If You Don’t Have Personal Professional Liability Insurance-Get It.

Professional liability insurance policies for nurses are very cheap.  Often policies are only about ten dollars a month.  Usual limits of coverage for this small premium payment are one million dollars of coverage for civil suits and $25,000 or more coverage for professional license defense.

But wait, it is not as simple as just purchasing the first professional liability insurance policy you find.  Many professional liability insurance policies do not offer license defense coverage.  Or, if they do, it is limited to only complaints where there is also the threat that a patient is going to sue for money.  Still others provide such low limits of coverage for license defense expenses (e.g., $5,000 or $10,000) that it is not worth the money paid for it, while others do not allow you to choose your own attorney.

Insurance Companies We Recommend.

We usually tout insurance companies such as that provided by Nurses Service Organization (NSO) and Healthcare Professionals Service Organization (HPSO) as providing great bang for the buck.  But here lately, we’ve been seeing (and hearing) more and more about CPH & Associates insurance.  Not only does it provide one million dollars in coverage if you are sued in a civil court, but it also provides up to $35,000 in coverage for professional license defense.  Additionally, for a very small additional payment, with CPH & Associates Insurance you can increase that coverage to $100,000 for professional license defense.  The other company we hear good things about is Lloyd’s of London.

If you have a complaint filed against your nursing license and you have to prove your innocence through a formal administrative hearing (trial), this can be very, very expensive.  Additionally, if you lose at this level, you may have to appeal the results to a higher court.  These expenses can easily cost $75,000, even if you win.  And you are not ever assured that you will get any of this money paid back to you, even if you are innocent and you win the case.  Inexpensive insurance coverage is the only thing that makes since.  Buy it!

In Conclusion.

We urge all nurses, especially traveling nurses, to purchase and maintain their own personal professional liability insurance policy.  It’s tax deductible.  But check to make sure you have coverage for professional license defense, even when there is no claim for damages expected from a patient.  Additionally, pay the extra premium to purchase a higher limit of coverage for professional license defense cases, or buy a second insurance policy for this additional coverage.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Do you have personal professional liability insurance? Will you consider purchasing a personal policy now? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.