Since a ballot measure that passed in 2004 Nevada has had a $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages (i.e. pain and suffering) in malpractice and wrongful death cases. In 2009, on the heels of a Hepatitis C outbreak linked to malpractice the Nevada State Assembly passed a bill striking down the cap. However, the bill was defeated in the Senate and the damage limit has remained in place since. In addition to noneconomic damages punitive damages, which are rare in malpractice cases, are limited to the greater of three times the amount of economic damages awarded or $300,000.
Nevada also requires all malpractice claims to first be presented before a screening panel to determine whether there is a reasonable probability that malpractice has occurred. If the panel determines that there is not a reasonable probability the claimant may still file the case in court, but should the claimant lose he or she is responsible for the defendant’s court costs and attorney fees. The panel’s findings are admissible in court as well. If the panel determines that there is a reasonable probability of malpractice and the case is filed with the court then both parties are first required to attend a settlement hearing with a judge. If either party rejects the settlement offer and then gets a larger judgment against them (in the case of the defendant), or a smaller award (in the case of the claimant) that party is responsible for the other’s court and attorney costs.
The statute of limitations in Nevada requires that any case stemming from an incident that occurred on or after October 1, 2002 must be brought within three years of the date of injury or within 1 year from the time the injury was discovered or reasonably should have been discovered, whichever occurs first. The only exceptions to this are that in the case of an injury which caused brain damage to a minor the statute is extended to the child’s tenth birthday, and in the case of an injury that caused sterility to a minor the child has until two years after the injury is discovered to file a claim.
Nevada is rather unusual in that it does not actually require healthcare providers to carry medical professional liability insurance. However, not doing so would be tremendously risky and many doctors are required by their hospitals or groups to carry coverage with limits of $1M per incident and $3M aggregate per policy period (1 year). Those limits are generally the standard in Nevada and most states.
The Nevada malpractice market went through some pretty rocky times in the early 2000s with carriers leaving the state and fear of a physician shortage that could lead to lack of available healthcare. But through active participation by doctors and other advocates in public policy debates, and due to an improving economy the malpractice insurance market in Nevada has largely stabilized. Prices are under control and there is a healthy amount of competition in the market. We expect a stable and affordable risk environment for Nevada physicians for the foreseeable future.