Whether or not we want to think about it, medical malpractice is a reality and plays a part in the current medical system. It has been estimated that about 25% of all the doctors in the United States are sued each year. Therefore, it’s important for members of the medical community to understand the different types of medical malpractice insurance available, considerations when purchasing insurance, and what happens during the claims process. This article will provide an overview of the basics of medical malpractice insurance.
Different Types of Medical Malpractice
Here are the four main types of coverage that are generally available through most insurance carriers:
Claims-Made Coverage – This type of medical malpractice insurance covers incidents that happen while the policy is active. A claim has to be filed while the policy is active or the incident will not be covered. If a doctor decides to cancel his/her policy or switches insurance carriers, the policy will not cover any future claims – even if the incident occurred during the policy period. Generally speaking, a claim consists of a written demand, but may also include a written or verbal announcements of a claim.
Prior Acts – This is also known as “nose” coverage; A type of supplemental coverage that covers any claims that may arise when your claims-made policy is cancelled or non-renewed.
Tail Coverage – This type of supplemental coverage is available when your claims-made policy is canceled or non-renewed. Tail coverage continues insurance protection under your claims-made policy for claims that may come up in the future, but happened while your policy was still active.
Occurrence Coverage – This type of medical malpractice insurance offers permanent coverage for incidents that occur during the policy period, even if they are reported after the policy expires or is canceled. Occurrence coverage is generally more expensive than the other types of insurance because it is hard to determine future liability or claims.
Things to Consider When Purchasing Malpractice Insurance
If this is your first time shopping for insurance, you should know that malpractice insurance policies are not the same. If anything, you should be aware of what is and what is not covered under any type of policy. There is insurance that will only provide coverage for direct patient care and will not cover care outside of a certain geographical area.
There are other policies that will cover all work-related functions or activities outside of patient care such as supervision of residents, committee work, or volunteer work. It’s important to communicate to your insurance broker or insurance provider all the different types of activities you will be performing and to find a policy that suits your specific needs.
Another important consideration is that insurance carriers vary in the way that they are structured, plus they offer different types of services. Just because one company offers a certain policy doesn’t mean another company is going to offer the same thing.
When comparing premiums, take into account the details of the policies and the services of the carriers to be sure they are the same. If a rate is really low compared with those of other companies, find out why.
What Happens During the Claims Process
Going through a medical malpractice lawsuit is a major inconvenience for everyone involved. It is time consuming and expensive, not to mention the emotional toll it can take on a person’s body and mind. Doctors put a great deal of energy into their work, and although they try all they can to provide for the needs of their patients, sometimes mistakes happen. Sometimes they may face a malpractice lawsuit.
If a doctor is sued for medical malpractice, the first thing that takes place is the delivery of summons and complaint. Typically the plaintiff is the patient, a party acting on behalf of the patient, or the executor of a deceased patient’s estate.
After a complaint is filed, the defendant (doctor) has a chance to challenge the allegations. The process now enters what is called discovery. Both the plaintiff and defendant can investigate to find out all about the allegations and defenses. During this time a deposition may take place in which either party will be questioned. This helps a lawyer prepare the case if it goes to trial.
At any time during the litigation process either party can settle the dispute. If the case does end up going to trial, a jury will decide whether or not the defendant (doctor) is at fault and if the plaintiff (patient) will receive damages.
Doctors are still able to work and practice medicine during a malpractice lawsuit. They can actually still work even if they are found liable in court. The exception is if the doctor falsified records or committed a grossly negligent act, which has caused him/her to be a danger to other patients.
Doctors are putting their reputation, career, and financial stability on the line when they don’t protect themselves with medical malpractice insurance. All it takes is one lawsuit to break the career that a doctor worked so hard to build.