Does your doctor have medical malpractice insurance?
We trust our doctors with our lives. Yes, doctors sometimes make mistakes. But what happens when a doctor makes an avoidable mistake? Or is negligent of proper medical procedures? What if your doctor fails to keep up with ever-advancing medical techniques and treatments?
Worse, if you’re in a position to sue or recoup your medical costs, can you still do so if your doctor doesn’t carry medical malpractice insurance? Here’s more information about medical malpractice insurance and how doctors try to get around paying claims.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
The legal definition of medical malpractice (also known as medical liability) varies from state to state. However, it can be generally defined as “any bad, unskilled, or negligent treatment that injures the patient.”
To protect themselves, many physicians pay for medical malpractice insurance. Most doctors or other health care providers pay yearly or monthly premiums that will help them cover possible civil judgments against them as well as legal costs involved in the lawsuit.
Facts About Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
According to a study published in 2012 in the New England Journal of Medicine:
- Of the doctors sued each year for medical malpractice, only 1.6% made a payout, bringing the overall yearly percentage of doctors needing to tap into their insurance to a meager 0.22% of physicians.
- The highest-risk medical specialties for malpractice lawsuits are the most complex: surgical specialties, especially neurosurgery and thoracic–cardiovascular surgery.
However, over the course of a career, 75% of doctors will face a medical malpractice claim. When looking at high-risk specialities, that percentage goes up to 99% of all doctors – a virtual certainty of being involved in a malpractice claim.
Is Medical Malpractice Insurance Required by Law?
Most states do require physicians to carry medical malpractice insurance in order to retain their medical license. However, Florida allows doctors to skip medical malpractice insurance (called “going bare”) if they choose. The Sunshine State also sets limits on how much a malpractice lawsuit can cost a doctor and even allows them to file bankruptcy to avoid paying all legal settlements.
In 2002, the American Medical Association (AMA) decided to stop recommending that all doctors be covered. Further, the organization declared that in 2016 it is pledging to “reform” the malpractice system by throwing its weight into lobbying. Thus, Florida may be only the first state of many to abolish medical malpractice insurance.
Patients Bear the Cost for Uninsured Doctors
When a patient sues an uninsured doctor, they usually get less compensation for their injuries. In the meantime, doctors can save their financial assets in ways that bankruptcy laws can’t touch – such as putting it into investments like annuities. If a Florida doctor files for bankruptcy as a result of a judgment against him or her, a patient can get nothing, even if they’ve won the malpractice case.
What Can You Do If Your Doctor Is Uninsured?
In Florida, doctors are required to notify patients that they do not carry medical malpractice insurance. They must post a sign in their offices and notify all existing patients in writing when the change occurs. Elsewhere, when you screen a new doctor, be sure to ask his or her office specific questions about malpractice coverage, like:
- Is your doctor covered in case of medical malpractice insurance? If so, for how much?
- If not, are there funds or a line of credit set aside in case of a judgment?
- Research whether your or not your doctor was sued in the past. How were the lawsuits resolved?
- Ask your healthcare insurer if they cover malpractice in case the doctor doesn’t have any.
- Consult an attorney if you are expecting to undergo high-risk surgical procedures or have any other questions about your doctor’s liability coverage.
Do you think you have a medical malpractice case? Talk to our malpractice lawyers to find out what your options are and how you can be reimbursed for medical costs or lost wages.