Doctors Make Mistakes Too. How to Protect Yourself from Malpractice Suits

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Medical office – middle-aged male doctor greeting patient, shaking hands.

There’s no way around it: doctors are some of the most overworked professionals. When you consider the erratic hours of their work, the lack of sleep, the severity of many medical cases, and the general gravity of their working environment, it’s no wonder why many doctors are prone to burn out and making mistakes. These mistakes are legally known as medical malpractice.

Doctors and other healthcare providers who are under a constant amount of significant stress and duress are more prone to committing medical malpractice, which is why they need medical malpractice insurance. Barring the instances of lapse in judgement and errors, doctors can also get sued for no fault of their own. They also need to remain prepared to fight frivolous lawsuits and claims.

What is Medical Malpractice Insurance?

No one wants to experience medical malpractice, and for the most part, most medical malpractice occurs as a result of human error rather than malicious intent. However, even if the injuries are a result of being stressed or overworked, doctors who commit medical malpractice are still vulnerable to lawsuits. Medical malpractice insurance is a type of professional liability insurance that specifically protects healthcare providers from the resulting legal liabilities associated with the injuries, as well as covering the cost of defending against the lawsuits.

How are Claims Filed?

There are two general types of medical malpractice insurance: claims-made and occurrence policies.

Claims-made policies cover suits brought against the doctor during the specified policy period. Most of these policies have a retroactive date, which means that acts that result in claims that are committed during or after the retroactive date are also covered. However, acts before the retroactive date are not covered. Most medical malpractice claims are submitted on claims-made policies.

While rarer, there are also occurrence policies available. This type of medical malpractice insurance covers the claims that arise from acts that were committed during the policy period, no matter when the claim is filed. Even claims that are filed years after the policy is done are covered as long as they resulted from acts committed while the policy was in effect.

What is Covered by Medical Malpractice Insurance?

Here are some of the things that must be covered by a good medical malpractice insurance policy:

·        Clear Insuring Agreement: A good professional liability insurance policy must describe the coverage agreement in broad but clear and definite terms. These terms will eventually be limited by definitions, limitations, and exclusions.

·        Vicarious Liability: Another thing that you should look for is protection against acts committed by other people who you employ. For example, if you hire a secretary to work in your practice and she violates patient confidentiality rules, her actions cannot be held against you legally and you will be protected from any lawsuit that will be brought against her.

·        Defense Coverage: Always know what fees and expenses will be covered by your policy when it comes to hiring legal defenses. Most medical malpractice insurance policies will cover legal expenses if you use a lawyer that they choose and hire for you, but will not cover the fees if you choose your own lawyer.

·        Settlement Procedures: You should also be aware of how a particular insurance policy will settle claims. Some policies will settle a claim according to their standards, whether or not you agree. Others will not settle a claim unless they have your consent.

What Is NOT Covered by Medical Malpractice Insurance?

As mentioned above, not all acts are covered by medical malpractice insurance policies. While these exclusions may vary a little from one provider to another, there are acts that are generally excluded no matter which provider you choose, such as:

·        Sexual misconduct

·        Acts committed under the influence of alcohol or drugs

·        Claims arising from violating patient confidentiality

·        Dishonest or fraudulent acts

·        Criminal or illegal acts

Do I REALLY Need Medical Malpractice Insurance?

Technically, there is no federal law that requires you to get medical malpractice insurance before you can practice as a doctor. However, there are some states that do require malpractice insurance before you can practice in that particular state, such as New York, Indiana, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

As a responsible doctor (or any healthcare provider), you should consider getting medical malpractice insurance to protect your career and your reputation. What’s more, many hospitals and healthcare facilities will be wary of hiring you if you do not have a professional liability policy covering you. 

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