More and more, nurses have a larger role in patient assessment and management. As critical care nurses have experienced this increase in patient responsibilities, nursing malpractice lawsuits have also increased. Nursing malpractice occurs when a nurse’s negligence of proper medical duties harms the patient in any way. Considered patient advocates, nurses are required to make medical choices in the patient’s best interest. When claims are filed against a nurse, the question of who is responsible for the negligent nurse arises. In some circumstances, the doctor in charge of the nurse is held accountable. Other cases free the doctor of liability, claiming the hospital responsible. Every case is unique, but there are some basic elements that you may want to consider when pursuing a nursing malpractice claim.
Three Common Elements in Nursing Malpractice
The following scenarios are most prevalent in cases where a nurse’s incompetence results in patient injury or death.
Inaction: As the initial line of communication between doctors and patients, it is the nurse’s responsibility to act quickly and efficiently in addressing a patient’s needs. He or she is required to diligently monitor the patient’s condition and react accordingly if a sudden emergency occurs. This could involve necessary and immediate medication alterations or calling for additional help. If the nurse notices an issue and does nothing, he or she may be liable for malpractice. Similarly, if an issue goes unnoticed when it was in the nurse’s scope of practice to notice, a lawsuit may follow.
Mishandling Medical Equipment: Medical equipment can cause patient injury in a number of ways. A simple mishap, such as dropping something heavy on a patient, can cause serious injury. Additionally, chronic damage may occur if a nurse misuses oxygen machines, defibrillators, or ventilators for lung therapy. There are countless types of medical equipment, large and small, that may cause harm to a patient.
Improper Medication Administration: A large part of a nurse’s duties is to administer medication. This requires intensive training. There are many complex methods of administering drugs, including intravenous (in the veins), intramuscular (in the muscle tissue), and subcutaneous (in the connective tissue between organs). A nurse’s lack of focus or misinterpretation of a physician’s medication orders could prove catastrophic, resulting in a potential malpractice suit.
Nursing malpractice differs slightly from regular medical malpractice due to the element of “chain of command.” Both the doctor overseeing the nurse and the hospital in which the injury occurred will be examined to determine ultimate responsibility for the injury. In other words, who is liable for the nurse’s incompetence?
- The attending doctor may be considered legally and financially responsible if he or she was physically present when the injury occurred, or if he or she could have reasonably prevented the nurse’s negligence. For example, if a nurse accidentally over-medicates the patient during a surgical procedure, the surgeon may be liable.
- The hospital may be responsible simply for employing the nurse. Similarly, if the nurse was performing expected nursing duties, legal and financial liability may fall on the hospital. If the patient’s doctor was not affiliated with the hospital, therefore not officially the nurse’s supervisor, the hospital may be responsible by default.
Berkowitz and Hanna LLC – Medical Malpractice Representation throughout Connecticut
Injury or chronic medical conditions caused by preventable errors may cause emotional trauma and life-altering changes for an entire family. If you have suffered as a result of nursing incompetence, it is your legal right to file a malpractice claim. At Berkowitz and Hanna LLC, we believe our clients deserve just compensation for their pain and suffering, lost wages, and overwhelming medical expenses. Serving Fairfield and New Haven counties, founder Russell Berkowitz is widely known as one of the leading medical malpractice attorneys in the state. Contact us today for a free consultation about your case.