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Know About Nursing Malpractice Law – Cochran Law

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

When we are receiving medical care, we have expectations that nothing will go wrong due to human error. After all, these are trained professionals who have chosen to work in one of the most caring professions.

But sadly, sometimes the standard of care we receive falls below those expectations. A breach of duty can happen for many reasons, but as a patient, you want to know who should be held liable and who any malpractice case should be pursued against.

What is Nursing Malpractice?

When a patient experiences harm as a result of a nurse’s failure to competently carry out their duties, then this is known as nursing malpractice. Responsibility for this malpractice lies either with the attending doctor or the hospital or clinic employing that nurse.

Common Types of Nursing Malpractice

Medical malpractice or negligence can be a complicated area of the law. There are numerous situations which can be defined as nursing malpractice, but several types of incidents tend to be the most common.

  • Lack of Action. Nurses are usually the primary link between a patient and the rest of the hospital system. If a nurse does not take required action when a patient’s condition changes, or if they fail to notice something they should have noticed, then there may be grounds for a malpractice claim.
  • Patient injury. If a nurse causes an injury to a patient, such as causing them to fall, dropping medical equipment or something else on the patient, then they acted negligently in causing that injury.
  • Medication issues. This can cover a variety of scenarios, including administering the wrong medication (or the wrong amounts of a medication), giving medication to the wrong patient,failing to administer medication, or administering it incorrectly, then these actions could lead to malpractice suits.

Suing Hospitals and Doctors for Nursing Malpractice

This is the major question when considering pursuing a nursing malpractice claim. Who is responsible for the nurse’s actions, the attending doctor or the hospital or care facility?

Hospitals are the most frequent defendants in nursing malpractice claims. We can identify the hospital as the liable party if the nurse was an employee of the hospital, if they were fulfilling their duties when the harm occurred, and where the doctor in charge of the nurse was employed by the hospital.

If the nurse is under the supervision of an attending doctor at the time of the incident, then liability may shift to the doctor. This may depend on the doctor being present at the time of any incident and whether they could have prevented any negligence through their actions and diligence. If an independent doctor not employed by the hospital was in charge of the nurse at the time the incident happened, then they may be identified as the liable party.

Michigan Laws

For medical negligence – including nursing malpractice – claims, Michigan sets the statute of limitations as two years from the date of the original incident. This means that any lawsuit must be filed within that time frame.

When Does Nursing Malpractice Occur?

Nursing malpractice occurs when a nurse fails to carry out their duties competently or where their actions are negligent. That failure in duty or negligence has caused harm to the patient.

Doing or Saying Nothing When Action Is Required

If there is any change in a patient’s condition, the nurse has a duty of care to report that change to the relevant medical professionals. Or, if the change requires immediate attention, and they are qualified to do so, they should immediately attend to the patient.

Nurses are assigned a certain number of patients and are responsible for monitoring their condition and any changes. If they do not report any changes, or if they should have noticed something and failed to do so, then this is nurse negligence.

Injuring a Patient With Equipment

Injuring a patient with equipment could cover a number of possible scenarios. It could involve the nurse knocking a piece of heavy equipment onto the patient, burning or scalding them with hot liquids, or leaving a sponge or similar inside the patient.

Improper Administration of Medication

Administering medication is one of the most crucial tasks in nursing practice. A patient may require regularly scheduled medication, occasional administration, or emergency medication in the event of any emergency or change in condition. Improper administration is defined by a number of possible scenarios.

  • Administering the wrong medication.
  • Using the wrong amount of any medication (too much or too little).
  • Giving medication to the wrong patient.
  • Administering medication wrongly – for example, giving an intramuscular injection when direction from doctor was for intravenous injection.

Any of these scenarios which lead to harm to the patient concerned may lead to a medical malpractice claim.

Who Is Responsible for Nursing Malpractice?

In the majority of cases, the hospital employing the nurse is liable for all aspects of nursing care including any incidences of negligence or malpractice. Liability may shift to the supervising doctor if they were present at the time of the incident and could have potentially prevented any errors happening.

And if the attending doctor was independent of the medical facility, then they may be held liable in this case.

Why Sue a Nurse for Medical Malpractice?

The resulting harm from nurse negligence can vary greatly from minor discomfort to wrongful death. Patients and their families expect a certain standard when it comes to duty of care. Where that duty of care fails, then victims have a right to seek redress under the law.

Nursing is very much an ongoing cycle of continuing education and nurses have a constant duty to look for any developments in their practice area which may affect their daily role.

Suing a Nurse’s Employer for the Nurse’s Malpractice

In theory, a competent medical malpractice attorney will sue both the nurse and their employer. The employer holds liability under the legal area of “vicarious liability.” Your attorney will pursue a claim against the employer to ensure there is maximum insurance cover in regards to any injury you suffered.

Where a case goes to court, neither the medical professional nor the employer plays a major role. Most of the defendant’s role is taken by the insurance company – or companies – providing coverage to the relevant individuals.

Some Examples of Nursing Malpractice

There are many possible scenarios where you could say a nurse acted negligently or failed to follow established procedures or failed in their duty of care. Professional health care is a stressful career with often long hours and mistakes do happen, but when those mistakes lead to a patient suffering harm, then there has to be accountability.

While we have covered some of the most common examples of malpractice, there are many others which can lead to a malpractice claim.

  • Failure to follow procedures correctly. What can appear a relatively routine procedure can have potentially fatal consequences if performed incorrectly. These can include monitoring IVs and the checking or placing of catheters.
  • Failure to document any and all changes and other relevant information. A nurse is a patient’s constant link to the rest of the hospital network. Even changes in basic things such as blood pressure or heart rate may be indicators of something more serious. Doctors rely on nurses to keep patient information on charts constantly updated.
  • Failure to disclose or advise. It is essential that a nurse not only maintains a good standard of care, but they also have the confidence to disclose information or challenge decisions when they need to. This can include speaking out if they feel a doctor has made a wrong decision regarding a patient’s treatment.
  • Failure to follow established patterns of care. Nursing organizations and employers have established patterns and regulations to ensure high standards of care. This covers everything from medication schedules to infection control and hygiene. Failure to follow these established guidelines can lead to a malpractice claim.

The Takeaway

Even when we have the greatest admiration for an often overworked profession, there must be accountability under the law when any deviation from acceptable levels of a standard of care leads to patient harm. When it does happen, you want the services of a competent attorney with experience in this area of the law.

Here at Cochran Law, we are in a unique position of having a highly-experienced attorney who is also a qualified registered nurse. Eileen E. Kroll can not only provide you with competent legal advice, but can also help communicate with medical professionals and understand all your relevant medical records and notes.
We operate our nursing malpractice cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that we only receive a fee when we win the case. We also offer a free initial consultation to evaluate your particular circumstances and to advise you on the next steps to take. To book an appointment, please call us toll-free today at 1-866-MICH-LAW.


Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.

Steve is a former criminal justice worker. With degrees in psychology and social work, he spent most of his life helping those with addiction issues before switching to criminal justice. He was responsible for writing court reports and advising judges on sentencing. He also supervised offenders, including sex offenders, in the community and carried out risk assessments and probation appraisals. He now lives in SE Asia and is working on his 5th novel.



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