Three Frequently Asked Questions About Malpractice Insurance

Carolyn Buppert, CRNP, JD

Disclosures

Journal for Nurse Practitioners. 2011;7(1):16-17. 

In This Article

Can I Protect My Personal assets from a Malpractice Judgment?

If you are married and own a house with a spouse, the house is protected from a judgment. Other than that, the best way to protect your personal assets are avoiding a lawsuit in the first place and having malpractice insurance in case the avoidance mechanisms don't work.

To avoid a lawsuit for malpractice:

  • Don't establish a duty to a patient when you don't have to (i.e., don't offer services or advice to individuals outside the work setting, and don't perform services that aren't called for by your job and by the standard of care).

  • Don't offer advice, diagnosis, or treatments outside of your scope of practice and expertise.

  • Base your diagnoses and therapy on guidelines and references commonly accepted in your area of practice.

  • Order a consultation or refer a patient if the history and examination suggest a differential that includes a deadly condition and you haven't ruled out or treated that condition.

  • If you order a test or consultation, follow through to be sure it was done and that the results were dealt with appropriately.

  • If the standard of care calls for screening for disease because of your patient's age, gender, or risk facts, conduct the screening and follow through if the results are positive.

  • Document carefully so that your actions are justified and your process for medical decision-making is discernable to an outside evaluator.

  • If you can't practice safely in your current work situation for whatever reason, leave that situation and find somewhere where you can practice safely.

  • Purchase your own occurrence malpractice insurance policy.

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