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Nursing home employees should seek liability insurance coverage

May 14, 2009
by JRosenfeld
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While we can debate the 'fairness' in the lack of mandatory liability insurance for nursing homes when it comes to residents, I want to focus on a second—and usually forgotten—group: nursing home employees.

As agents of a nursing home or hospital, nurses, CNAs, administrators, and physicians have generally been able to sleep well at night, even if they were accused of negligence and a lawsuit was brought against them. Their employers almost universally defended the lawsuit and, if needed, paid a settlement or judgment.

Today, however, this situation is becoming less common. Increasingly, nursing home employees are being named personally in nursing home lawsuits—especially in situations where a facility has no coverage or is likely uninsured. This means that nursing home workers are becoming personally exposed with respect to being named as a defendant in a lawsuit. That's right—the nursing home worker could be responsible for paying for a legal defense and for paying any judgment or settlement.

This new era litigation should not be passed off as a new guerrilla tactic employed by plaintiff’s lawyers. To the contrary, most plaintiff’s lawyers would much rather pursue a cause of action against a large company as opposed to an individual—jurors are more likely to hand down larger verdicts if they know a corporate entity is paying for it. In most cases this is done due to a complete lack of other options for an injured party to recover.

The real blame for this situation falls squarely on the shoulders of the individuals and corporations who make a conscious decision to forgo or minimally insure their facilities. In terms of liability insurance coverage, some facilities are electing to completely forgo such insurance or obtain such negligible coverage that it provides mostly for the 'cost of defense'—to pay lawyers to defend them.

Employees should become familiar with insurance coverage

If you work in a nursing home or long-term care facility, it's time for you to get acquainted with the insurance procedures at your facility. Without sounding overly alarming (and I know I already have), your failure to learn some of the insurance lingo could jeopardize both your professional career and personal finances.

I now believe all nursing home employees should secure professional liability insurance for themselves. The cost of this coverage is less than you would think and becoming necessary in situations where injured parties are increasingly looking to individuals to be held responsible for their damages.

Before purchasing an individual policy, keep in mind the following:

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