As a physician you take an oath to save lives. Every doctor does their best to abide by that oath, but you operate within a field where anything can go wrong at any time. The slightest wrong move, or misguided consultation opens you up to accusations of negligence and malpractice. The only way to cover yourself is to acquire some physician malpractice insurance.
Any injuries or deaths occurring in your care, or under your knife(for surgeons) fall under your responsibility. The slightest nick during surgery is subject to be cause for a lawsuit, even if the rest of the procedure went without incident. A patient can sue a physician for things you would never normally think of. If they improperly take their medication you're open to a lawsuit, if they don't take their prescribed medication at all you're open to a lawsuit, if you or your staff improperly take documentation you're open to a lawsuit; and even if the patient misses their own appointment and you don't do a callback you're open to a lawsuit. The simplest things can have you stuck in court for years, and leave you paying out big bucks.
Medical malpractice lawsuits can destroy you financially if you're not covered by insurance. Most states require every practicing physician to be covered. What works in your favor, is that the rates and premiums are not determined by "medical experience" like most other types of insurance. When you average out the cost of the premium compared to your salary, and compared with the cost of a lawsuit, it’s well worth the money. Your specialty and location are the greatest determining factors. The state insurance commissioner determines who gets approved and how much they pay, than you can acquire the insurance through an independent provider or insurance broker.
Here's an example of the range of rates between specialties:
- General practitioners average a rate of $3,00 to $9,000 annually.
- Surgeons(depending on their specialty) average a rate of approximately $10,000 to $20, 000
- OB-GYN's average a rate of about $40,000
Some states like Florida, do not require doctors to carry insurance. However, that's not an incentive for doctors to move to Florida to practice in order to avoid paying insurance rates. Without the physician malpractice insurance your personal assets are fair game in a lawsuit, you can lose everything in one case.
There are around 100,000 medical malpractice lawsuits filed every year in the United States. Doctors need to have insurance to protect themselves, their practice, or their employer from liability. Even if you work in a hospital, you are not excluded from the responsibility of carrying your own insurance. The facility will not be responsible for costs resulting from a lawsuit. When you’re covered, the insurance company takes on the responsibility of the investigation and any costs incurred by the physician as a result of the lawsuit.
You want to be able to focus all you energy on caring for your patients, not be distracted by concerns that every patient is a potential plaintiff in a case against you. Although most states have statutes and laws that protect you from malicious prosecution, what happens if you make a mistake? You may strive for perfection, but you want to be prepared if one day something does go wrong. Physician malpractice insurance covers you, and preserves your reputation as a responsible doctor that puts the patient first, no matter what the cost.