As a doctor or health care provider, you likely know the importance of keeping patients safe. Indeed, one of the primary principles of the Hippocratic Oath is to do no harm. However, the truth is that accidents happen in medical offices. Sometimes, you don’t intend for someone to get hurt, but unfortunate events might lead to an injury. Because it happened in your practice, the patient might blame you for their losses. As a result, they might file a liability suit against you. Which insurance coverage should you use to make a claim for the damage?
You might think that all patient injuries in your business are cases of malpractice. Often, they are. Yet, in other situations, they are not. They might actually be a better fit for your general liability insurance policy.
Understanding Medical Malpractice
Malpractice is when a medical professional, through negligence, causes harm to a patient. The American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys defines malpractice as containing three characteristics. To commit malpractice:
- A care provider must commit a violation of the established standard of care for an issue. In other words, they must fail to provide treatment as accepted by professional rules.
- The negligent action must cause injury to the patient. The patient can prove that they sustained harm because of the mistakes the provider made.
- The injury must lead to severe injuries or personal losses. A patient must show that the mistake caused them bodily harm, financial losses, disability or similar losses.
Malpractice might occur in cases of:
- Injuries caused during the administering of treatment
- Wrongly prescribed treatment or medications
- Unnecessary treatments or surgeries
- Surgical errors, or surgery on the wrong areas
- Poor aftercare
- Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis of an illness
- Misreading or ignoring tests or presentation of symptoms
It is easy to see why accidents made during care could cause significant losses for those they harm. As a result, the patient in question might decide to take action against the practice. That is because they might blame you for their issues.
Often, they might be right that you caused them harm, even accidentally. As a result, you might have to settle with them for their financial losses. Filing a claim on your medical malpractice insurance might help you do so. Even if you don’t have to reach a legal settlement, your malpractice insurance might still even cover legal fees.
Common Malpractice Claims
Let’s say that you are a dermatologist. You frequently remove potentially-cancerous skin lesions from patients’ bodies in your office. Generally, these are relatively low-risk, minimally-invasive procedures.
However, during one removal, you neglect to sterilize around the area you plan to remove. So, after the procedure, the surgical area becomes infected. The patient winds up in the hospital with a serious infection that requires further medical procedures and treatment. Though they might make a recovery, they could sustain considerable, ongoing pain. They could also experience higher medical bills and future care costs.
Because you failed to follow protocol by not disinfecting the site, the patient might sue for malpractice. They could allege that the problem might have been avoidable had you followed the rules. Therefore, you might have to compensate the patient for some of their losses.
Still, not every accident affecting patients in your office will qualify as malpractice. However, they might still count as liabilities. Therefore, you might have to look to other insurance for assistance.
General Liability Coverage for Doctors Offices
You must maintain a safe practice. Otherwise, you might expose your patients to injury risks.
Perhaps one of the water fountains in your practice leaks and makes a puddle on the office floor. One day, a patient slips in the puddle and falls. They suffer a severe back injury that causes unplanned medical treatment. They also miss work and lose income as a result of the injury. As a result, they might sue the business. However, you might find that your malpractice insurance won’t help you in this case.
A patient injury, like a fall in a puddle, does not relate to the care you provide the patient. Therefore, malpractice coverage likely won’t help you. Yet, you might be able to use your commercial general liability insurance for these cases. A general liability policy usually contains bodily injury coverage. So, if a patient sustains injury in your practice, then you might have help available. This policy can pertain to the accidents that you don’t plan on, but which might happen. It protects you because your practice is your business. Businesses need liability coverage.
Most medical practices need not only malpractice insurance, but also general liability insurance. So, talk to a commercial insurance agent at 800-462-3401 about how both policies will benefit you. With the right coverage, you’ll have protection against all customer injuries. You’ll be able to offer your patients more help when they need it.
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