Any medical professional can be found to be accountable for medical malpractice. A nurse who has departed from the accepted standards of nursing care, resulting in harm to patients has committed medical malpractice. Generally, nursing malpractice is defined as negligence caused by a nursing professional that results in emotional or physical injury or death to a patient s/he was caring for.
Who is Liable for the Mistake of a Nurse?
When a nurse has made a mistake or has been negligent in the caring of a patient, the employer of the nurse will usually be held accountable. Generally, this is the hospital or other type of medical facility that a nurse works for. The attending doctor could also be held responsible, depending on who is found to be responsible for a nurse’s negligent actions.
A hospital may be found to be legally and financially responsible for a nurse’s negligence if:
- The nurse was employed by the hospital,
- When the patient was injured the nurse was fulfilling a job duty, and
- And independent doctor (not employed by the hospital) was not in control of the nurse.
Since most nurses are employed by hospitals, hospitals are often a defendant in cases involving nursing malpractice.
The Attending Doctor
When an attending doctor is supervising the nurse, the hospital could be off the hook even if the nurse is employed by the hospital. Whether the nurse is considered to be under a doctor’s supervision when the negligence occurred depends on:
- Whether the doctor was present, and
- Whether the doctor was in control and could have prevented the nurse’s negligence.
Whether a doctor could have controlled the nurse at the time the negligence occurred is normally an issue that is disputed between the doctor and the hospital. Who is found to be responsible does not change whether the injured patient is able to recover; it just determines who is responsible for paying. Even if the doctor is found to have supervised the nurse, the hospital could still be found to be liable if the doctor gave the nurse improper orders and the nurse should have known that those orders were improper, but followed them anyway.
Victims of nursing malpractice may seek damages including:
- Assistive devices or in-home care;
- Emotional trauma;
- Future medical care;
- Future loss of earnings;
- Lost earnings while unable to work;
- Medical expenses;
- Pain and suffering; and/or
- Physical therapy.
Cases of nursing malpractice can be very complex, as are all medical malpractice cases. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of nursing malpractice, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to discuss your case.
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