As a physician, you enter your career with the hopes of helping people improve their health and treat their ailments. However, no good deed goes unpunished. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “75% of physicians in low-risk specialties and 99% of those in high-risk specialties were projected to face a claim” by age 65. Good practitioners get sued, too, so it’s important to understand your protection options in the unfortunate event of a lawsuit.
Medical malpractice insurance covers your liability in situations where your services are claimed to have caused a patient’s injury or death. Many states require it to practice, but we argue that you should always obtain it for peace of mind.
Who Should Get Medical Malpractice Insurance?
Any practitioner in the healthcare industry should acquire medical malpractice insurance. Whether you’re a physician, dentist, optometrist, veterinarian, psychiatrist, physical therapist, or nurse, this coverage will save you time, money, and energy in a malpractice claim.
What Does Medical Malpractice Insurance Cover?
Most policies will help with the cost of legal fees, court expenses, patient’s medical bills, or other care needed to fix the injury or illness caused by the service. You should consider including or adding endorsements that protect against cyber liability and regulations put forth by HIPAA as well. Also, read the fine print on your policy to understand situations where your policy may not cover incidents involving sexual misconduct, drug use, or criminal acts.
Types of Medical Malpractice Insurance
You have two general coverage options: claims-made or occurrence. In a nutshell, claims-made is triggered when the claim is filed and occurrence applies to incidents within a predefined period. Let’s dig deeper.
When a patient files a claim against your practice, your current claims-made coverage is triggered. Your insurance policy must be active when the procedure took place and when the patient files. For example, if the patient files in 2021 for services rendered in 2019, your current claims-made policy in 2021 will go into effect and must have been valid back in 2019. This means that you’ll typically need longer-term policies to account for the time between services rendered and potential claims that may be filed.
You should consider adding tail coverage to extend the coverage of your claims-made policy after it expires or is canceled. This way, you’re covered after the expiration. If you’re swapping insurance carriers, changing offices, or even retiring, tail coverage can be crucial to ensure you’re protected even after the claims-made policy has ended.
Occurrence coverage goes into effect when you provide the service to your patient. Even if the claim is made many years later and after the occurrence policy has expired, you’re still covered. Thus, if the patient files in 2021 for services rendered in 2019, your 2019 occurrence policy goes into effect, even if it expired in 2021.
As a result, you don’t need tail coverage with an occurrence policy, but it can cost significantly more than a claims-made policy due to its wide-reaching safety net.
How Much Does Medical Malpractice Insurance Cost?
In the United States, medical malpractice insurance can cost you from $50,000 to $200,000 a year. Of course, the exact costs will be determined by coverage levels, industry, practice type, and location.
Medical malpractice is a vital piece to successfully kick-starting or transitioning your healthcare practice. Making this big decision with peace of mind and going through the process smoothly can be a challenge to pull off on your own. If you need help weighing your options with experienced counsel, reach out to us — we’d be happy to help.