10 Surprising Facts from the Nurses Malpractice Claim Report

As a nursing professional, what do you consider to be the greatest risk to your career? In the Nurses Claim Report, NSO and CNA review and analyze malpractice and licensing claims to help nursing professionals understand your areas of greatest vulnerability. Armed with the knowledge gained from the Report, nurses can reduce their risks of potential litigation and take steps to help improve patient outcomes.


Here are the top 10 findings from the report:

  1. Nurse malpractice claim costs are significant. The average cost of a registered nurses’ malpractice claim is $210,513.
  2. Death remains the most common patient injury that results in a lawsuit. It accounts for 40.9% of all malpractice claims against nurses.
  3. Patient injuries that resulted in higher-than-average losses, and more unfavorable outcomes for insured nurses, included brain injuries, paralysis, and amputation. The high costs of these claims reflects the patients’ need for lifelong medical care.
  4. Home care closed claims increased from 12.4% of the total claim count in the 2015 claim report to 20.7% of the total claim count in the 2020 claim report. Home care includes home health, hospice, and palliative care, and is the most frequently sued nursing specialty (36.1%). Other specialties that were commonly associated with claims include adult medical/surgical (18.5%), gerontology – in an aging services facility (10.5%), and emergency/urgent care (9.7%).
  5. Allegations related to treatment and care continue to represent the highest percentage (56.0%) of all malpractice claims asserted against nurses. These allegations were often related to a failure to fulfill core nursing responsibilities, duties, and expectations.
  6. Documentation deficiencies were contributing factors in many nurse professional liability claims and State Board of Nursing matters. For more information on nursing allegations related to documentation, see the Nurse Spotlight: Documentation.
  7. In both the 2015 and 2020 claim reports, many of the nursing malpractice claims related to medication administration were difficult to defend. These claims often involved the use of “work-arounds” to bypass the facility’s established safety procedures, failure to follow established facility policies and procedures, or diverted medications.
  8. The average cost to hire an attorney to defend a nurse during State Board of Nursing investigations increased by 33.7% since the last study in 2015 to $5,330. The number of paid license defense matters increased by about 6% since the last study in 2015. 
  9. Unprofessional conduct resulted in the majority of license complaints (32.5%) made against RNs and LPNs/LVNs. Complaints related to scope of practice, including breach of professional standards and provision of services beyond scope of practice, made up 24.8% of the allegations against nurses.
  10. Approximately 55% of State Board of Nursing matters led to some type of Board action against a nurse’s license. Board actions included fines, public reprimands, mandated continuing education, practice restrictions, or even suspension, surrender, or revocation of the nurse’s license.

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