Nursing Malpractice in Utah: An Attorney's Perspective
Historically, most liability for medical malpractice fell on the physicians who supervised nurses. However, critical care nurses play important and expanding roles in patient care. They are the front line in patient care assessment, management and planning. Nurses act as the eyes and ears for doctors when they cannot be present.
What constitutes nursing malpractice in Utah and what are some common examples?
Nursing malpractice occurs when a nurse does not fulfill the duties of a reasonably competent nurse under the circumstances and that failure causes an injury to a patient. Administering medications according to a doctor's orders is a common nursing task. Improperly administering medication, giving the wrong dose, or the wrong medication might be nursing malpractice.
Another common example is failing to properly monitor and assess the patient and report critical findings to physicians. Nurses are the front line of medical care and must monitor and attend the patient. Any significant or critical finding must generally be passed on to the attending physician. If the failure to do so results in harm to the patient, the nurse may be liable for medical malpractice.
I have handled cases where nurses failed to pass on significant changes in a patient's condition. A delay in passing this critical information along to a physician delayed potentially life-saving treatment.
A nurse may also be negligent by carelessly injuring a patient with a piece of medical equipment or by causing a patient to fall and injure themselves.
Who is responsible for nursing mistakes in Utah?
Generally, under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is responsible for the acts of their employees. In Utah, most nurses are employees of a hospital, clinic or other entity. Therefore, in most cases, the employer will be responsible for the malpractice of their nurse employees. This means the nurse often does not need to be named personally in a lawsuit for nursing malpractice.
In addition, the attending physician or other supervisor may be responsible if they failed to properly control or direct the nurse.
Prevailing in a nursing negligence case in Utah
Expert testimony is generally required to win a case for nursing malpractice in Utah. The standard of care required by nurses must be established as well as a breach in that standard of care leading to harm to the patient. These cases are expensive, difficult and legally complicated. Injured patients need experienced legal counsel to represent their interests. I would be happy to talk to you for free if you feel you, or a loved one, have been injured by nursing malpractice. Call Attorney Jared Faerber (801) 438-1099.