Malpractice Insurance

Malpractice insurance is a form of professional liability insurance that protects medical professionals. It is carried by individual doctors and nurses, dentists, medical and dental practices, clinics and hospitals.

It is often called Errors and Omissions coverage because it protects against mistakes committed by medical personnel as well as against instances where something should have been done but wasn’t. There are literally thousands of potential errors and omissions that can occur in a medical setting, whether it is a doctor’s office, a clinic, nursing care facility, rehabilitation facility or a hospital.

Malpractice insurance, or professional liability insurance, covers errors and omissions made in the standard course of medical care. It does not provide coverage for criminal behavior that might occur, for example, in a doctor’s examination room or in a dental office while a patient is under anesthesia.

Malpractice Insurance is Required for Medical Professionals

While laws differ, some states require that medical malpractice insurance be obtained by medical professionals in the same way that car owners are required to have car insurance. Proof of insurance is sometimes required before a professional license to practice medicine, dentistry or nursing will be given.

Most medical practices, clinics and hospitals will not hire a medical professional without proof that a current professional liability policy in in force and being kept up to date. This is due to the fact that if a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed by a patient, not only the doctor is named, but the facility employing the physician is typically sued as well.

Even those practices and hospitals that require their medical employees to have malpractice insurance typically have their own umbrella policy. They protect themselves in cases where a medical professional fails to maintain their insurance, or in cases where a plaintiff alleges that the clinic or hospital was negligent, for example, in hiring an unqualified medical professional. Even hospital directors and officers often obtain professional liability insurance.

The Cost of Medical Malpractice Insurance

Malpractice insurance is very expensive, though not all coverage costs the same. Rates vary based on medical specialty. For example a general practitioner in a family practice will have relatively low malpractice insurance costs. A surgeon’s costs will be higher, and the highest malpractice insurance rates are paid by OB/GYN doctors and by anesthesiologists.

Rates vary from state to state too. Many states have passed tort reform laws in recent years. These laws put limits on monetary damages that can be awarded in malpractice lawsuits. Some laws limit the types of lawsuits that can be filed. In states that have reformed malpractice and personal injury law, the risk to the insurance company is lowered. As a result, they offer lower malpractice insurance premiums in a competitive marketplace. More than 30 states have now capped damages in malpractice lawsuits.

Here are a few examples of medical malpractice insurance costs. On average, internal medicine/general practitioner malpractice insurance costs are $8,000-$25,000 per year. For surgeons, the costs are $30,000 to $75,000 per year. For OB/GYNs, the costs are $70,000-$150,000 per year. A few states like Florida have very high rates that might even exceed these ranges. Within any state, urban areas tend to have the highest rates; rural areas tend to have the lowest rates.

How to Check your Doctor’s Malpractice Insurance

Currently, the only way to check your own doctor, dentist, clinic or hospital is to ask. There is no online database in most states that lists whether or not a doctor is insured.