While most people are familiar with the concept of medical malpractice, where a doctor’s negligent actions led to a patient’s injury, many are unaware that nurses can also be held liable for malpractice. Generally, nursing malpractice takes place when a nurse fails to competently perform his or her duties and as a result, the patient is harmed.Malpractice Situations
Common situations in which nursing malpractice occurs include:
- Errors in administering medication, including administering the wrong drug or an incorrect dosage, as well as a failure to assess a patient’s reaction for side effects;
- Injuring a patient with equipment, including the improper use of equipment, burning a patient, leaving materials inside a surgical patient, or knocking over a piece of medical equipment onto the patient;
- Failure to monitor a patient’s condition;
- Failure to communicate with the supervising doctor about any changes in condition;
- Working while impaired, whether due to the consumption of controlled substances or to a lack of sleep; and
- Inappropriate delegation.
If a nurse is found to have committed malpractice, there may still be a question of liability. Often the hospital will be legally and financially responsible if:
- The nurse was an employee of the hospital;
- The nurse was fulfilling a duty when the patient was injured; and
- An independent doctor (not employed by the hospital) was not in control of the nurse.
Even if the nurse was not an employee, the hospital may still not be liable if the attending doctor was supervising the nurse at the time of the injury. Whether the doctor is considered to have been serving in a supervisory capacity depends on:
- Whether the doctor was present; and
- Whether the doctor had the control to prevent the nurse’s negligence.
The hospital may still be liable if the doctor was supervising but gave improper orders and the nurse knew or should have known but followed them anyway.Expert Testimony
In a nursing malpractice case, both sides will often produce qualified experts to present evidence at trial. In essence, the experts will testify about what a competent nurse should have done in the particular situation and whether the nurse’s negligent actions caused harm to the patient.
In some cases, the nurse’s negligence is so apparent that medical testimony is not required to show competence and causation. For instance, in the event that a nurse administered a drug different than that requested by the doctor, a court would most likely not require expert testimony because the negligence is so apparent.
Injuries sustained during treatment for a medical condition can seriously affect your quality of life, and it is important to speak to an experienced attorney to determine whether you can recover for those injuries. Please contact the dedicated San Jose medical malpractice attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. for a free consultation.