Penny Simpson Brooke JD, MS, APRN

August 2010 
Volume 40  Number 8
Pages 14 - 15
  PDF Version Available!

As a new RN, I hope I'm never sued—but if I am, what are the first things I should do to best serve my legal interests?—R.C., NEB.You must respond to the plaintiff's complaint in a timely manner to avoid having a default judgment brought against you, and you need legal expertise to complete these documents. Your attorney or employer should be the source of all contact with the plaintiff, not you personally.If you have your own personal professional liability insurance (which I recommend), immediately notify your insurance carrier that you've been named in a lawsuit. Most insurance policies identify the steps you must take to give them timely notice of a lawsuit. If your policy is in good standing and the information you gave in your insurance application was accurate, the insurance company will assign an attorney to defend you in the lawsuit.Typically, insurance companies reserve the right to assign your defense attorney because they want to work with counsel experienced in nursing malpractice cases. If you don't work well with the attorney assigned to your case, tell your insurer—another attorney may be assigned. If you hire an attorney without your insurance company's approval, you'll have to pay that person's fees out of pocket.If you don't have your own personal professional liability insurance coverage, you may be covered by your employer's insurance policy. Notify your supervisor and your employer's legal department for advice on how to proceed. Your employer's insurance policy may provide legal counsel to defend you.Your employer will probably be named as a defendant in the lawsuit also. If there are any potential conflicts of interest between you and your employer, you may need to hire your own legal counsel to protect your rights. Before hiring anyone, conduct an interview to make sure this attorney has expertise in handling malpractice cases and to discuss fees so you'll know what to expect.To

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