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Who needs malpractice insurance?

Medical malpractice insurance, also known as medical professional liability insurance, covers health care professionals for errors associated with treating patients. These policies pay defense and settlement costs for claims alleging medical error or neglect, even if the claims are without merit.

Most health care professionals — including nurses, nurse midwives, advanced practice nurses, CRNAs, physician assistants, physicians, dentists, and podiatrists — are required to have malpractice insurance, either as a part of their employment or to maintain privileges or payer contracts.

There are three types of malpractice insurance: claims-made, occurrence, and per patient. Coverage is typically offered at different limits, such as $100,000/$300,000 or $200,000/$400,000. Limits are the maximum amount your policy will pay for claims. The type of coverage and the limits you select helps determine how much your malpractice insurance will cost.

Whether you are purchasing coverage for your own practice or joining a group that provides your insurance, pay attention to the details of your policy.

  • Does the policy cover all your activities as a physician?
  • Who has consent to settle a claim? You? The insurance carrier? Your group?
  • Will defense costs be outside the limits? (Some policies do not include coverage for legal expenses.)

If you are working for an employer or as a member of a group, it is important to understand how malpractice insurance is included in your employment contract. Ask questions, keep proper documentation, and know that everything is negotiable.

  • What are the requirements for the group’s malpractice insurance?
  • Who pays for the insurance? Who pays for tail coverage?
  • What happens if there is a dispute between you and your employer about a claim? Does your employment contract require arbitration or mediation?
  • Request a copy of the policy including the declarations page. Keep copies of all documentation.
  • When leaving employment or a group, request a copy of your tail policy.

Learn more: How much does malpractice insurance cost?
Learn more: Medical liability insurance buyer’s guide