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Can Nurses Commit Medical Malpractice?

NursesWhen the average person thinks of medical malpractice, they think almost exclusively of doctors. However, any licensed medical professional is, in theory, able to commit malpractice. Nurses are the most common culprits, aside from doctors, though others such as pharmacists and midwives are sometimes held liable. If you believe you have received substandard medical care from a worker who should be held to a higher standard, you may have a case.

Examples of Nurse Malpractice

Nurse malpractice can be both extremely similar and very different than causes of action for malpractice against doctors. The underlying charge is generally the same - that a nurse may be presumed to be negligent if they do not exercise a similar level of skill, knowledge and care in diagnosis and treatment to that of a reasonably careful nurse in the same circumstances. However, the standard of care itself will differ from that expected of doctors, simply because different levels of experience and schooling are required.

One trend that is seen fairly often is that nurse malpractice tends to revolve more around acts or statements of omission - that is, a lack of action rather than an incorrect or improper action. For example, a nurse may be held to commit malpractice when failing to administer medication to a patient, or failing to inform a doctor (or other emergency personnel) if a patient’s condition changes. It is also important to note that in these situations, a doctor may conceivably be held at least partly liable for the nurse’s actions (or lack thereof); it depends on how closely supervised the nurse is, and whether they are held to be an employee of the doctor or hospital, rather than a person working for themselves.

Negligent or Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

One caveat that is somewhat unique to California is that nurses are the medical professionals most often held liable for negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress (NIED and IIED). Most states have abolished causes of action for NIED, but California does recognize it, and if a nurse is held to be negligent, they are more likely to also be held liable for NIED than a doctor, simply because they are often closer to the patient.

NIED suits are most often brought on behalf of bystanders, such as family members, but it can also occur in the realm of elder abuse. Nurses are the primary caregivers in many nursing homes, and as such, it is not uncommon that accusations of elder abuse are brought against them, both legitimate and illegitimate. California law simply allows for NIED claims to be brought alongside general claims of medical malpractice.

Seek Clarification With a Medical Malpractice Attorney

Just because someone is not a medical doctor does not mean that they cannot breach the acceptable standard of care. If you or a loved one has been harmed by a negligent nurse, you deserve to be heard. The understanding San Jose medical malpractice attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. will help to answer your questions, and do our best to suggest a path for you and your family that will offer the best chance to get your life back to normal. Contact us today at (408) 289-1417 or via our website to set up a free consultation. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of San Mateo, San Benito, Santa Clara, Monterey, and Alameda.

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Client Reviews
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My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.