In 1989 the Supreme Court of Washington determined that a cap on non-economic damages such as pain and suffering is unconstitutional. Currently there is no limit in any category and no patient compensation fund. There is a mandatory arbitration process for medical malpractice suits, but it cannot interfere with a person’s right to trial by jury.
In Washington a claimant has 3 years from the time of the alleged incident causing an injury, or 1 year from the date he or she knew or should have known about the injury to file a medical malpractice suit up to a maximum of 8 years from the date of the incident. There is an exception for minors that gives the minor until the age of 18 to file a suit.
While there are 3 main companies writing most of the malpractice insurance coverage for physicians in Washington, there are plenty of other options. Because of the stability of the market there are many highly rated insurance companies with competitive rates offering policies in the state.
Following a challenging market in the early 2000s, Washington’s medical malpractice insurance market began to stabilize around 2005. Since that time insurance premiums have trended downward to a point that is comparable to the market in most states currently. Rates are stable, claims are down, and there is competition in the market giving physicians and surgeons plenty of options for coverage at affordable rates with highly rated companies. According to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner medical malpractice insurance companies have been profitable in the last several years but they have seen a slight uptick in losses in 2013. Overall claim frequency and severity is still low but the OIC is keeping a close eye on claims in 2014.