Nursing Malpractice: Who is at Fault for a Nurse’s Error?

When you think of “malpractice,” you think of a physician. However, malpractice is a broad term that can be applied to any healthcare professional, including nurses and technicians.If a nurse injures you due to negligence, you may have a valid basis for a malpractice claim. However, determining whom you would hold liable for nursing malpractice is not as simple.

What is Nursing Malpractice?

Nursing malpractice is when a nurse fails to perform their standard duty of care, and that deviation from the norm results in harm to the patient. There are a variety of ways a nurse’s negligence may harm a patient, including:

  • Administering the wrong drug or dosage of medication
  • Failing to notify the physician when there is something wrong
  • Failing to monitor the patient’s vitals
  • Injuring a patient with equipment
  • Failing to act when the patient is in obvious distress

Who is Liable for Nursing Malpractice?

Determining liability comes down to the facility and employment arrangement of that nurse.

A hospital might be liable financially and legally for the actions of nursing staff if the nurse was an employee of that hospital. Through vicarious liability, hospitals (and any employer), are liable for the actions of their employees. However, the hospital is only responsible if the nurse was fulfilling a duty of her job. If a nurse was off-duty and committed a fatal error, the hospital is not at fault.

Sometimes, the physician is liable for the actions of the nurse. Physicians are often supervisors of the nursing staff, and if your medical malpractice attorney determines that the nurse was under the direct supervision of a doctor, they may hold the physician responsible instead of the hospital.

For a doctor to be liable for a nurse’s actions, they must be in control of the situation and able to prevent the nurse’s errors. Also, the doctor must be present. Therefore, if a physician is not in the room when the nurse makes a mistake or that physician is on call away from the hospital, it might not be the doctor’s responsibility.

Determining Fault in Nursing Malpractice is Complicated

With issues of vicarious liability and physician liability looming above your case, you need a medical malpractice attorney by your side. Udall Shumway, PLC has a team of malpractice attorneys that can help determine which party is legally and financially responsible for your injury and hold them accountable.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you or someone you know wishes to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney regarding Nursing Malpractice, or other personal injury matters, call Mesa AZ Personal Injury Attorney Clark R. Richter at 480-461-5321 or contact him at for a free consultation to discuss your rights and options. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.