Can Nurses Be Sued for Medical Negligence?

Doctors aren’t the only ones who are involved in your treatment and care when you visit the hospital. In fact, there are potentially dozens of people who work on your medical case in some way. When you suffer an injury while in the hospital, you may be quick to assume that the doctor is entirely to blame. However, it’s important to consider that the doctor may have not been involved in causing your injury, at all.

Nurses are almost always as involved, if not more involved, than the doctors on your case. It’s entirely possible that a nurse’s error in judgment or negligence could cause serious injuries. Can you file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a nurse in Los Angeles? Absolutely.

What is Medical Negligence?

Medical negligence, which is often referred to as medical malpractice, occurs when a medical professional doesn’t provide the standard of care that’s necessary to keep patients safe. Nurses in California are held to a heightened standard of care. This means that nurses must be extra careful and do everything in their power to keep patients safe.

A nurse may be considered negligent if he or she “fails to use the level of skill, knowledge, and care in diagnosis and treatment that other reasonably careful nurses would use in similar circumstances.”

The standard of care that’s appropriate will often depend on the type of nursing care that’s being provided. The skills and knowledge required of a nurse working in an intensive care unit or emergency room are different than those for a nurse working in a geriatric unit. The primary question that must be asked is “would another nurse working in similar circumstances have acted in the same way?”

Negligence Cases Involving Nurses

Nurses are human and can make mistakes. Statistics show that medical negligence cases involving nurses have been on the rise over the past few years. In fact, more nurses are being sued today than ever before. Most of these medical negligence lawsuits involve the death of a patient.

Nurses who hold additional certifications and/or work in fields that are classified as high-risk are the most likely to be sued for negligence. These include:

  • Adult surgery
  • Aging services
  • Cosmetics
  • Obstetrics
  • Home health, and
  • Hospice.

Between 2007 and 2014, more than $90 million was paid out in nursing malpractice claims across the country. Recent studies show that this trend has continued in recent years.

Types of Nursing Malpractice

How exactly do nurses commit malpractice when they treat patients? The American Journal of Nursing explains that there are five primary reasons nurses may be negligent.

Failure to Use Equipment Responsibly: Some healthcare professionals have state-of-the-art equipment at their disposal. Others are forced to rely on older devices that have been proven to aid in patient health and safety. All medical personnel must be fully capable of using the equipment that’s available to them. Nurses and other hospital staff members are specially trained to use various medical tools. When a nurse forgets how to use a particular tool or uses it improperly, patients can get hurt. Failing to use equipment correctly can be considered nursing negligence.

Breaching the Standard of Care: Medical professionals are required to comply with standards of care that are set not only by state law, but also by various healthcare organizations and licensing boards. A nurse can be considered negligent if he or she breaks the rules or deviates from protocol.

Failure to Assess, Monitor, and Communicate: Nurses are typically more involved in a patient’s case than other healthcare professionals. They tend to be most highly attuned to a patient’s health and progress. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities even charge nurses with the responsibility for monitoring patient health and communicating any negative changes. A nurse can be considered negligent if they fail to monitor a patient and/or alert a doctor if something goes wrong.

Failure to Act as a Patient’s Advocate: Nurses are around patients more than doctors. As a result, nurses tend to have a firm grasp on the patient’s health and medical needs. Perhaps more importantly, nurses develop insight into and understanding of individual patients needs. A patient may even disclose important information to a nurse, such as an allergy or medical condition. This information can be extremely beneficial when constructing a patient’s treatment plan. If a nurse discovers that a doctor has ordered a test or treatment that would put a patient’s health in jeopardy, he or she has an obligation to speak out.

Failure to Document: Nurses are often responsible for recording and charting information that’s relevant to a patient’s case. Forgetting to chart information or assuming that something isn’t important can have devastating consequences down the line. For example, failing to note that a patient is allergic to a specific type of anesthesia could be fatal if that patient requires surgery. Most hospitals and healthcare centers have specific protocols in place for documenting patient information and health. A nurse can be considered negligent for violating these protocols.

Have you been injured because of a healthcare provider’s negligence? Contact Citywide Law Group to learn about your legal rights and options. Our personal injury lawyers will help you fight for the money you deserve.