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Who in a Hospital Needs Medical Malpractice Insurance?

In a hospital, the talent base is diverse. From physicians to therapists every employee plays their part. However, when doing their duties, they all pose risks to others. As a result, most professionals within the facility need liability insurance. More notably, many need medical malpractice coverage. Which employees fall into this category? How can they get coverage? What protection do they need?

Why You Need Malpractice Coverage

Malpractice insurance falls into a greater category of insurance called professional liability coverage. With coverage, medical professionals can have protection for the harm they cause others. By carrying a policy, you can compensate a third party for their losses that are your fault.

If you are a doctor (or other caregiver), you spend most of your time trying to help others. However, you perform extremely sensitive services. Any one of them might lead to physical harm to a patient at any time. They could suffer costly harm that could impact them permanently. As a result, you might face negligence claims from the affected party. With malpractice insurance, you can use your policy to compensate the injured party. It can help cover certain medical costs, legal fees or other settlement costs. It protects both the policyholder and those to whom they owe a debt, so to speak.

Coverage for Hospital Employees

Many large hospitals, networks or practices carry group hospitalist malpractice policies. The policies protect the business’s interest in the mistakes employees might make. That’s why most facilities carry them in the first place.

Generally, these policies will provide coverage for all those listed on the policy. Usually, that equals a wide variety (if not all) the employees within the facility. These can include:

  • Physicians and surgeons
  • Nurses, nurse practitioners and CNAs
  • Medical students, interns
  • EMTs
  • Technologists
  • Counselors and clinical social workers
  • Other practicing professionals

Yet, never assume that though the facility for which you work provides coverage, that it’s enough. You may find that you need to get coverage elsewhere.

Coverage Options Outside Facility Policies

You might assume that because you work for a hospital that has a policy, you have all the protection you need. Think again. Physicians and others often need individualized malpractice protection alongside employer-sponsored coverage. 

  • Wherever you work, find out if the facility carries a malpractice policy. Also inquire if that coverage extends to you as an employee. Whether it does might depend on a few factors.
  • Some facilities require employees to carry coverage on top the coverage they provide. This might apply to those with particularly high-risk or niche specialties.
    Employees not officially employed by a facility might not have coverage under the facility’s policy. Some do, but some don’t. For example, many hospitals now use contracting physicians or nurses in certain capacities. If you are one of these employees, your official employer (such as a nursing agency) might provide this coverage instead of the hospital. Otherwise, you might need to get an official policy yourself. Regardless, the facility where you work might not have responsibility for your mistakes.

As soon as you begin working at a facility, immediately talk to those in charge of the facility’s insurance. Most will gladly provide you with a summary of the benefits provided. They will likely tell you if you have coverage or if you need additional protection.

The Insurance You Need

Malpractice policies vary. Generally, coverage comes in two different forms:

  • Occurrence coverage is generally more expensive but covers most physicians indefinitely. Thus, it will continue to provide coverage (at similar limits) even after you cancel the policy. No matter how long after an incident a claim occurs, you’ll have coverage even if you no longer carry the same policy. This will often save you a lot of hassles should you receive a claim after the fact.
  • Claims-made coverage only insures malpractice claims that occur while that policy remains active. To get coverage indefinitely, you might have to buy an extended coverage rider. Most insurance policies call this option a tail. Tails come at a cost, but let you make a claim on a policy that you previously cancelled.
  • If you move between claims-made providers, some will retroactively extend coverage to the terms of your previous policies.

Keep in mind, exclusions will exist for your coverage. For example, you’ll not receive protection for criminal acts or records alterations. You will also likely have to carry minimum levels of coverage per state law. New Jersey requires:

  • $1 million/occurrence
  • $3 million aggregate per annual policy period

However, remember that these are the maximum limits on how much money you can receive from a claim. You should thus do your best to ensure you have appropriate limits for your area of practice. In some cases, you might need to increase your protection.

For assistance in getting coverage, call the Joseph A. Britton Agency at 800.462.3401. We’re here to help physicians get the malpractice insurance that most benefits them.

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