Medical Malpractice News

Medical Malpractice 101 – Who Needs Medical Professional Liability Insurance?

Tags: , , | Comments: 0 | July 31st, 2013

In this post, we’ll take a brief look at who needs medical professional liability insurance, and how both individual and group policies are important tools for the medical professional. Medical malpractice lawsuits are becoming increasingly common. The ease with which they can be brought, combined with the lack of serious consequences for those who bring them frivolously, can make liability a constant concern for medical professionals who do not have the peace of mind that comes from partnering with experts who can help them manage those risks and allow doctors to focus on their true priorities—the patients.

So, who needs medical professional liability insurance?

Individual Physicians Need Medical Professional Liability Insurance…

Individual doctors working independently of course need medical professional liability insurance, as it is sometimes required by law and, more importantly, it is the only thing that stands between a doctor and a potential liability that could reach into the millions of dollars. However, even doctors working for hospitals may want to consider the benefits of negotiating with their employer to have their own policy, even if it is funded by the employer. In today’s legal climate, attorneys almost always encourage their clients to file suits against both the individual doctor and the hospital; having one’s own policy has real benefits in that situation.

For example, if the employer-provided policy is an individual policy for the doctor, that means—should the doctor get sued—there is no potential conflict of interests in legal representation. The doctor’s legal counsel will be working directly for her rather than for the hospital. Likewise, if a doctor decides to leave the practice or take a different job he can take his policy with them and simply take over payment of the premium.

Finally, doctors who are employed and have their malpractice insurance through a primary employer, but who do part time work for another practice need coverage for that work. Moonlighting is not typically covered by an employer’s group policy, and thus leaves the doctor open to full liability for any incident that occurs while practicing outside of their primary job. However, this can be easily solved by purchasing a part-time policy with vicarious liability coverage that protects both the doctor and the practice that he is working for part time from liability. A good broker should be able to help secure such a policy at a very reasonable rate.

… And, So Do Medical Groups, Hospitals, Practices and HMOs

If it’s important for individual doctors to have their own medical professional liability insurance, it is perhaps even more so for medical groups. As we’ve seen above, most malpractice suits will be filed against both the accused physician as well as her employer. Employees are considered to be working as agents of the group, and thus the group is potentially liable. Further, lawyers and patients are aware that medical groups often have deep pockets and the potential for a massive payout makes filing a suit against the group, unfortunately, a no-brainer in the American legal context.

In addition to standard medical malpractice insurance, a medical group should also have Errors and Omissions insurance (E&O). Errors and omissions insurance protects the group against liability for alleged diagnostic and logistical failures. So, if a patient is denied a particular treatment either because of cost or because of a mistake made by a physician and the patient later sues on the grounds that the treatment was needed and should have been offered E&O insurance is there to mitigate liability. Further, E&O protects against liability arising from alleged failure to discipline or terminate a negligent doctor prior to the occurrence of an incident.

Doctors Working in Medical Spas

Doctors working in medical spas or other environments where they are performing cosmetic or non-traditional treatments may not be covered under a general malpractice policy. Procedures ranging from liposuction and Botox injections to anti-aging treatments, acupuncture, and hormone replacement therapy cannot be assumed to be covered under a standard malpractice policy. Here again, the importance of a trusted broker with a proven record cannot be overstated. A broker can help a doctor find a policy that covers the specific treatments that doctor plans to perform, and can even offer unique policies designed specifically for those working in medical spas and other non-traditional practices.

Officers and Directors of Medical Facility Boards and Medical Corporations

While officers and directors do not need medical malpractice insurance per se, they should consider the benefits of Directors and Officers liability insurance (D&O). Similar to E&O, D&O provides specific coverage for directors and officers against vicarious liability for things like alleged negligent oversight or hiring of employees, denial of treatment, etc.

Physician’s Assistants, Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Dentists, Therapists, etc.

Finally, there are those in the “everyone else” category. The simple reality is that in the United States, under the present legal system, anyone can sue anyone else, for almost any reason. And simply being sued can mean significant expenses for the medical professional even as the patient’s legal counsel works pro bono with the knowledge that sheer volume of suits will eventually result in some payouts. Further, the ever growing size of payments for even the most minor malpractice incidents, and the reality that juries can often be swayed by emotionalism, and purely subjective criteria that they are encouraged to consider such as emotional impact make working in any part of the medical field without medical professional liability insurance a gamble that simply isn’t worth taking.

Medical professional liability insurance is an investment. It’s an investment in your peace of mind, an investment in the security of your assets, an investment in the financial stability of your family, and it’s an investment in your career, your vocation. So make sure that you find a partner that can help you make the best investment possible so that liability is never an issue for you.