A recent study found that both the rate of malpractice claims and the average value of claims against nurse practitioners have increased over the past several years. As the healthcare industry has emphasized the importance of preventative care, nurse practitioners have begun playing a larger role in patient care as these professionals can perform a wide range of treatments, including some duties traditionally performed by doctors. In particular, nurse practitioners have taken the lead in providing healthcare in many medical specialties underserved by physicians.

Patients should understand their legal rights in the event their nurse practitioner renders negligent treatment. A patient who suffers an injury or illness or experiences a worsening of an existing medical condition may have the right to pursue a malpractice claim against a negligent nurse practitioner. However, nurse practitioner malpractice claims can be just as complicated as malpractice claims against physicians. Injured patients should work with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to improve their chances of successfully obtaining a financial recovery.

What Are Nurse Practitioners?

A nurse practitioner is a type of advanced practice registered nurse. Nurse practitioners receive additional education and training that enables them to provide additional healthcare services beyond those typically performed by nurses. Nurse practitioners can perform many of the same tasks as physicians, including performing physical exams, ordering diagnostic tests, diagnosing and treating medical conditions, and prescribing education. In some states, nurse practitioners may serve as primary care providers, which means they can work independently; in other states, nurse practitioners must work under a physician’s supervision, with the supervising physician responsible for authorizing certain treatment decisions. 

Common Types of Malpractice Claims Against Nurse Practitioners

Because nurse practitioners can be involved in many aspects of a patient’s care, they may become the subject of various malpractice claims, such as:

  • Failure to diagnose/delayed diagnosis
  • Failure to order diagnostic testing
  • Misinterpretation of diagnostic test results
  • Failure to treat
  • Medication errors, including prescribing a contraindicated drug or miscalculating dosage
  • Improper use of medical equipment and causing physical injuries during procedures or treatment
  • Failure to obtain informed consent by not explaining the risks and alternatives of a proposed treatment
  • Failure to consult with or refer patients to specialists
  • Premature discharge
  • Failure to follow up with patients after discharge
  • Birth injuries

Nurse Practitioner Malpractice Statistics

According to a study conducted by the Nurses Service Organization, the average total value of a nurse practitioner malpractice claim had increased by over 10.5 percent in a five-year period, rising to an average claim value of $332,137. Nurse practitioners in neonatal care had the highest average claim values among medical specialties at an average of $627,333 per claim. Six medical specialties accounted for about 97 percent of all nurse practitioner malpractice claims in the study:

  • Family medicine (38.8 percent)
  • Adult-gerontology primary care (27.2 percent)
  • Behavioral health (10.8 percent) 
  • Gerontology (10.8 percent)
  • Pediatric (7.8 percent)
  • Neonatal (1.7 percent)

The top three locations for NPs subjected to malpractice claims included physician office practices, aging services facilities, and nurse practitioner office practices. 

Diagnosis-related causes represent the most common type of malpractice claim against nurse practitioners, accounting for 37.1 percent of claims. These claims also had an average value of $385.947, higher than the overall average claim value of $332,137. The two most common adverse outcomes suffered by nurse practitioner malpractice claimants were death and cancer, representing more than half of all claims. 

The study opined that the increases in nurse practitioner malpractice claims could be attributed to the overall increase in the number of nurse practitioners over the past several years and the fact that more NPs have begun working in specialties that have seen decreases in the number of primary care physicians practicing in those specialties. 

What Are a Patient’s Legal Options After Suffering Nurse Practitioner Malpractice? 

A patient who has suffered harm due to negligent treatment by a nurse practitioner may have various options for recovering compensation for their injuries and losses. The injured patient may pursue a malpractice claim directly against their nurse practitioner. In most cases, a patient will pursue their claim with the nurse practitioner’s malpractice insurance company. 

In certain circumstances, other parties may also share liability for a nurse practitioner’s malpractice. A patient can pursue employer liability against the hospital, healthcare facility, or medical practice that employed the negligent nurse practitioner. When an NP works under a physician’s supervision, a patient may also have a claim against the supervising physician if negligent supervision caused or contributed to the nurse practitioner’s error. 

Pursuing Financial Recovery for Injuries or Complications Caused by Malpractice

If you’ve been harmed by negligent care or treatment rendered by a nurse practitioner, you may be entitled to seek financial recovery for expenses or losses you incur due to injuries or health conditions. Compensation potentially available in a nurse practitioner malpractice claim include:

  • Costs of additional medical treatment and rehabilitation needed for injuries or health conditions caused or aggravated by negligent care from a nurse practitioner
  • Costs of long-term care or support for prolonged or permanent disabilities resulting from malpractice injuries or illnesses
  • Lost income from additional time you need to take off work to treat injuries or illnesses caused by a negligent nurse practitioner
  • Loss of future earning capacity due to disabilities
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment or quality of life because of disabilities or disfigurement
  • Reduced life expectancy

Let a Nurse Practitioner Malpractice Lawyer Help You Pursue Your Legal Rights and Options

After suffering injuries or illnesses caused or aggravated by negligent care from a nurse practitioner, you deserve compensation and justice for your harm and loss. However, medical malpractice claims can involve complex facts and legal issues. A nurse practitioner malpractice lawyer can guide you through the legal process, preparing and pursuing a compelling malpractice claim and vigorously advocating for your right to financial recovery. Contact The Epstein Law Firm, P.A., today for a free, no-obligation consultation to speak with a nurse practitioner malpractice attorney about your legal options.