Are Medical Malpractice Cases Involving Nurses Different?

When people hear about medical malpractice, they often think it refers to doctors. Some people are surprised to find out that medical malpractice can result from the negligent, improper, or illegal actions of any medical professional who is responsible for a patient’s care. Nurses are the medical professionals most often on the front lines of patient care, and they occasionally make mistakes. Unfortunately, these mistakes sometimes result in the harm or death of a patient. In other words, malpractice cases involving nurses can and do occur.

While we at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield know that most nurses are good-intentioned, hard-working professionals doing their part to make their communities healthier, we also believe that it’s important to hold people responsible for any negligent, improper, or illegal actions that result in pain or loss of life. Keep reading to learn more about nurses and medical malpractice.

Nurses and Medical Malpractice: Defining Malpractice

It’s important to note that not every mistake a medical professional makes constitutes malpractice. Medicine is an exceptionally complex field, and mistakes are bound to occur. Medical malpractice refers specifically to instances where a medical professional does not fulfill duties in a way that other medical professionals would in that same situation, leading to the harm or death of a patient.

It’s important to differentiate between medical malpractice and actions taken by medical professionals that result in undesirable patient outcomes. If those actions would have been taken by other medical professionals in the same situation, then malpractice did not occur. The purpose of pursuing a medical malpractice claim is not only to try to recover economic and non-economic damages, but also to hold people responsible for their harmful actions to hopefully prevent future harm from occurring.

Hospital Liability

One of the most significant differences between malpractice cases involving nurses and malpractice cases involving doctors is that, when the case involves a nurse, it’s usually the hospital that’s held liable for any economic or non-economic damages. However, hospitals aren’t necessarily liable for negligent or harmful behavior of doctors. This is because nurses, and other medical technicians, are employees of the hospital. Doctors, on the other hand, are often not employees of the hospital, but rather considered independent contractors.

There are some situations where hospitals can be liable for a doctor’s actions and other cases where a doctor could be liable for a nurse’s actions. For example, if a doctor is an employee of a hospital and that doctor commits medical malpractice, the hospital can be held liable as well. If a nurse commits medical malpractice under the direct supervision of a doctor, it’s possible that the doctor could be held liable, even if he or she is not an employee of the hospital.

The circumstances of every medical malpractice case are different, and it’s important to know who is ultimately responsible before pursuing a claim.

Malpractice Cases Involving Nurses: Examples of Nursing Malpractice

Nurses have specific roles in healthcare, and they are typically the ones that interface with patients directly. Some of the most common examples of medical malpractice involving nurses include failing to act when action is required, injuring a patient with equipment, and improperly administering medication. If a nurse notices something of concern, or should reasonably be expected to notice it, the nurse and hospital may be held liable if that nurse fails to notify the attending doctor. When it comes to the administration of medication, nurses can be held liable if they fail to follow orders properly.

Because of the complexity of medicine, there are unfortunately countless opportunities for mistakes - and thus for medical legal cases involving nurses - to occur.

Questions about medical legal cases involving nurses? Give us a call.

Medical malpractice is an extremely serious matter. If you live in Oregon and believe you may have experienced medical malpractice, or if you have questions and would like to schedule a free consultation, please don’t hesitate to contact the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield.


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