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Do Nurses Get Sued for Malpractice?

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

When people think about medical malpractice, they consider mistakes made by doctors or surgeons. Yet the fact is that negligence and errors can happen in any part of your medical treatment, from pharmacists to nurses. One study estimates that some 400,000 Americans die each year from preventable harms. And other studies estimate more than one million patient-safety incidents occur every year among Medicare hospitalizations.

The cost of these mistakes can be enormous. In 2017, paid claims for medical malpractice (for all medical practitioners) amounted to nearly $4 billion. Nurses play a crucial part in any medical treatment. They are a vital link between patient and doctor and as such, they bear a heavy burden of responsibilities. Many nursing malpractice claims result from a momentary lapse of concentration or errors due to fatigue, but many more amounts to criminal negligence.

What Are the Most Common Types of Nursing Malpractice?

  • Action. When a nurse fails to take any necessary actions to do with patient care, it can result in harm to that patient. This could include a failure to act if the nurse notices a change in the patient’s condition and does not take action when needed. Or it may be a failure to document any changes they have noticed. With hospital and clinic staff working on long and often staggered shifts, there may not always be the opportunity to orally report any changes so noting on patient records and charts is essential.
  • Injury. This can happen when a nurse causes a direct injury to a patient. This could be as a result of spilling a hot drink or liquid on the patient, dropping medical equipment onto the patient, or not taking enough care with the patient and the patient falls.
  • Medication. It is estimated that some 7,000 to 9,000 patients die each year in the U.S. as a result of medication errors. This type of error can be due to improper dosage or wrongly administered drugs.


Who is ultimately responsible for a patient’s injury? In the vast majority of malpractice lawsuits, it is viewed that the hospital bears the final responsibility as they have a duty to ensure that a reasonable standard of care is maintained by all its staff including nursing professionals.

The law recognizes the medical “chain of command” so the hospital will be held liable for the actions of a nurse who is employed by that hospital and where the doctor in charge of that nurse is also employed by the hospital.

There are exceptions to this, however. If the nurse is being supervised by an attending doctor, then that doctor may be held liable. But the doctor needs to have been present when the harm occurred and there will also be some question whether the doctor could have prevented the harm from happening. Another exception is if the supervising doctor was independent of the hospital. In that case, they may be held liable.

This sort of situation, where an employer is held responsible for the actions – or inactions – of one of their employees is called vicarious liability. Both the hospital and the nurse are likely to be named in any lawsuit but the reality is that the defendant will be the hospital’s insurance company. As these companies have high-powered law firms on permanent retainer, it makes sense to engage a law firm or the best Nurse Attorney Michigan Team such as Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. who know this area of law and has extensive courtroom experience fighting medical malpractice suits.

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Why Should I Sue?

It is quite surprising that people can be reluctant to sue medical professionals. Yet not only do we expect a high standard of care when we seek medical treatment, but the nursing professionals have a duty of care and this is a crucial element in any malpractice case as recognized by the American Journal of Nursing.

We also have to recognize that patient harm, even when it is as a result of a genuine error on the part of the nurse, can have a devastating effect on the patient and their family and in some cases may even result in death.

As a profession, nursing recognizes these facts. Groups such as the Nurses Service Organization realize that a nurse can be sued and offer special insurance policies to help protect nurses and their careers.

The statute of limitations on medical malpractice suits varies from state to state. In Michigan, the statute of limitations is two years. This means that you have two years from the date of the incident to begin legal action against the nurse and the hospital.

Some Last Thoughts

Having to deal with the worry of receiving medical treatment can be bad enough, but when additional harm is caused through error or negligence, then you want some avenue of redress. You may lose wages and face additional medical bills and there is also the physical and psychological pain and suffering you may undergo.

Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., have the best Nurse Attorney Michigan Team and have been fighting medical malpractice claims for many years and it is one of the areas of law we specialize in. We are also in a unique position of having a highly experienced and qualified nurse attorney Michigan on our team. With her specialized knowledge, Eileen E. Kroll can interpret all your medical records and discuss your case with involved professionals and expert witnesses. We offer a free initial appointment to evaluate and discuss your case. If you would like to arrange one, please call us today on 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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