The results of a closed claim analysis indicate the costs of nursing professional liability claims increased in recent years. The increase is greater in some specialties.

  • Increased complexity of care might be a cause.
  • The cost of defending claims also rose.
  • The data can be used to support risk management.

The results of an analysis of closed nursing claims indicate costs have recently risen, and the increase is worse in some specialties.

The average total incurred for each professional liability claim involving nurses has increased from similar analyses in 2011 and 2015, says Georgia Reiner, risk specialist for the Nurses Service Organization (NSO) in the Healthcare Division of Aon’s Affinity Insurance Services in Philadelphia. Costs increased to more than $210,000 per claim, a 4% increase since 2015.

More Than Inflation

The rate of growth is more than what could be explained by inflation, Reiner says. “It may be attributed to more sophisticated arguments from attorneys, tort reform rollbacks, increasing class action lawsuits, and other large jury verdicts across the country influencing juries,” she says. “Another possible driver is the increase in complexity of patient needs. Meeting the needs of these higher-acuity patients involves more procedures that are surgical, diagnostic, and restorative. This, along with rising healthcare costs, means it takes higher verdicts to make plaintiffs whole for their losses.”

NSO worked with CNA, an insurer headquartered in Chicago, to produce Nurse Professional Liability Exposure Claim Report: 4th Edition: Minimizing Risk, Achieving Excellence.

Total incurred costs were higher than the overall average in obstetrics, critical care, behavioral health, and home care. Reiner notes these are areas experiencing increased demand for services and a shortage of nurses. “These are areas where risk managers should be dedicating resources to protect against these claims,” she says.

Even in cases with no award to the plaintiff, the average cost of defending nurse professional liability claims increased to an average of more than $20,000.

“This signals that risk management and what you do are worth investing in. If there are dollars you can spend to protect against any of these claims, they are dollars well spent,” Reiner says. “I know as risk managers it can be difficult to make the financial case for what you do. We hope these findings help risk managers make the case for investing in risk management within their institutions.”


  • Georgia Reiner, Risk Specialist, Nurses Service Organization, Aon’s Affinity Insurance Services, Philadelphia. Phone: (215) 293-1178. Email: georgia.reiner@aon.com.