Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

How to Avoid a Lawsuit

July 10, 2022

The best defense against a lawsuit is to provide compassionate, competent nursing care. The nurse-patient relationship should be based on trust and respect. Open and honest communication is the key to build­ing a therapeutic relationship and often helps resolve

FIGURE 2-4 A patient-nurse relationship built on trust and open communication is the best way to prevent a lawsuit.

patient dissatisfaction before the patient resorts to legal action (Figure 2-4). Following the standards of care and the policies and procedures of the facility and adhering to the scope of practice for the LPN/LVN reduce the likelihood of lawsuit. Remaining current on practice developments and taking advantage of continuing education opportunities help to ensure competence.

Nurses may find themselves in settings outside of the worksite in which an individual is injured and needs assistance. Concerns may result about the responsibility of the nurse and the decision to offer assistance to a victim. Nurses are not required to offer assistance when they are acting as a “private citizen.” If the nurse chooses to offer help, liability may be limited under Good Samaritan laws. These statutes have been developed to provide immunity from liability in certain circumstances. The goal of this protection (except in cases of gross negligence) is to encourage assistance in emergencies that occur outside of a medical facility. State and provincial laws vary, so it is important to know the Good Samaritan laws that apply. A reference with links to individual state positions on Good Samaritan laws can be found at www.heartsafeam.com/pages/faq_good_samaritan.

Proper documentation in the medical record is another important factor in assessment of liability. The medical record is thoroughly examined in the event of a lawsuit, and its use is permitted to demonstrate in court the level of care that was provided to the patient. An important legal presumption to remember is, “Care was not given if it was not charted.” Simply stating care was provided does not provide legal protection. Omissions in charting provide a great boost to the team bringing the lawsuit.