Understanding Medical Malpractice Insurance
Medical malpractice insurance is insurance coverage for doctors, hospitals, nurses and other medical providers to pay for injuries caused when the health care provider makes mistakes. It is very unusual for doctors to cause injury intentionally—most medical mistakes are just that—mistakes because of inattention, lack of experience, or simple error. Medical malpractice insurance protects the health care providers, and gives them peace of mind. They know that, even if they make a mistake, their patients can be taken care of.
Some of our clients are concerned a lawsuit will hurt their doctor. The reality is that most physicians carry medical malpractice insurance, and the doctor will not make any payments individually because of a birth injury lawsuit.
Who Has Medical Malpractice Insurance?
Every state is allowed to regulate whether and how much insurance is carried by medical providers. In general, physicians and surgeons carry medical malpractice insurance either under their own names, or through professional groups that they belong to. Hospitals typically carry insurance that covers their employees, including doctors, nurses, and other staff. Some of those other providers, like nurses, might have their own insurance policies.
Though it is an awkward conversation to have, it is important to ask your physicians and health care providers whether and how much medical malpractice insurance they carry. This is especially critical when an unborn child may be injured—those injuries can require a lifetime of treatment, costing in the millions of dollars. If your doctor or midwife is not covered, or has coverage less than $3 million, you should find another medical provider.
What are the Benefits of Medical Malpractice Insurance?
In exchange for monthly or yearly premiums, an insurance company will provide a legal defense to a health care provider accused of medical malpractice. The insurance company may hire a lawyer to represent the medical practitioner in medical malpractice settlement discussions, lawsuits and trials. The insurance company will also pay any agreed settlement or any trial verdict.
Health care providers with enough insurance are protected from the financial consequences of their mistakes—a lawsuit will not be able get at the provider’s personal assets. Most importantly, they will know that their mistakes will, to some degree, be rectified.
The Defense Lawyer’s Client
Defense lawyers, though they are paid by the insurance companies, are appointed to represent the health care provider. This can create many interesting and complex situations. For example, what if a doctor wants to settle the case, but the insurance company insists on carrying on a defense (or vice versa)? Some policies allow a medical malpractice insurance to settle a case based on “expediency,” or the self-interest of the insurance company. Many courts have ruled specifically that insurance companies must represent the best interests of the health care provider, and that if an insurance company refuses to settle a case at the request of the health care provider, then the insurance company may be responsible for any amounts owed over the policy limits.
Defense lawyers can be caught in this crossfire—though they represent the medical practitioner, the insurance company pays the bills (and hopefully refers future cases to that lawyer). Going against the wishes of the insurance company is a classic example of “biting the hand that feeds you.”
If your child suffers from a birth injury, contact our medical malpractice attorneys at (440) 252-4399 or send us an online request for more information. We have extensive experience taking doctors, hospitals and other medical providers to court on behalf of injured children.