What All Surgeons Should Know When Seeking Medical Malpractice Insurance

Shopping for medical malpractice insurance is time-consuming and complex, especially for surgeons. The fact is, one size does not fit all surgeons when it comes to liability coverage amounts, type of policy, and rates. How can you be sure that the carrier and policy you purchase will provide enough coverage for your surgical specialty if sued for medical malpractice? And how can you find a competitive rate?

Obtaining medical malpractice insurance through an independent broker at SURGPLI is the answer. We specialize in helping surgeons in all specialties save time and effort by getting quotes from A-rated carriers with a reputation for robust financial stability and legal support for policyholders if sued. Get a quote now.

Understand the basics of medical malpractice policy underwriting

For surgeons, each medical malpractice insurance policy is underwritten individually. Each carrier uses its proprietary methods of setting rates, which vary across carriers and specialties. Carriers typically consider the practice location, surgical specialty, and past claims history of each applicant.

Also, rates for medical malpractice insurance in some U.S. states are slightly higher than the national average – and lower in some states – and vary by location. In addition, surgeons practicing in larger cities and metro areas will typically pay higher rates than those in rural or less-populated areas.

For example, a plastic surgeon in a private practice in Miami, FL, who has a history of multiple past claims will likely pay a higher policy rate than a family medicine physician in Titusville with fewer or no claims. SURGPLI brokers are experienced in working with underwriters from multiple A-rated carriers, so they can help surgeons navigate the complexities of medical malpractice policy requirements.

Beyond the basics: Surgery is a “high-risk” specialty.

Overall, medical malpractice insurance underwriters consider surgeons “high-risk” applicants. Since policy rates are determined in part by the type of specialty and the likelihood of being sued for malpractice, surgeons can usually expect to pay a higher annual cost than the average estimated rates in the state where they practice.

Some specific surgical specialties carry a higher risk of iatrogenic patient injuries and thus increase a surgeon’s exposure surgeons to medical malpractice claims. According to data from the Medscape Physicians and Malpractice Report 2023, surgeons topped the list of “Malpractice Lawsuit Frequency, by Specialty”:

  • General Surgery       90%
  • OB/GYN                      85%
  • Orthopedics               82%
  • Plastic Surgery           73%
  • Otolaryngology          72%
  • Urology                       72%
  • Cardiology                  64%
  • Gastroenterology      64%
  • Neurology                   59%

Understand a surgeon’s risk of being sued for medical malpractice

Understanding the risk factors of your surgical specialty – and the likelihood of being sued – is key to ensuring that you obtain robust medical malpractice coverage beyond your state’s minimum requirements. The Medscape Physicians and Malpractice Report 2023 revealed the top five allegations in medical malpractice lawsuits: failure to diagnose or delay diagnosis, complications from treatment or surgery, failure to treat or delay treatment, poor outcome or disease progression, and wrongful death.

Here are more specific allegations by specialty most often alleged against surgeons in medical malpractice lawsuits:

  • General Surgery – Surgery is performed on the wrong body part, or when a foreign object is left in the patient’s body leading to a post-operative complication or death. 
  • OB/GYN Surgery – Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of gynecological cancers; profound brain injuries at birth; misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of fetal distress.
  • Neurosurgery – Claims relating to laminectomy surgeries including improper performance of surgery, retained foreign body, delay in surgery, and unnecessary surgery.
  • Orthopedic Surgery – Post-operative implant and prosthesis infections; sciatic nerve injury in hip replacements; deep vein thrombosis developing into pulmonary embolism.
  • Bariatric Surgery – Lack of identifying and treating complications of laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy; and bowel perforation during surgery.
  • Plastic Surgery – Improper performance and poor outcomes of higher-risk elective cosmetic surgeries, such as the Brazilian Butt Lift; delayed treatment of post-operative complications and infections.

Changing jobs or moving to a new practice? Surgeons need tail insurance.

You will need tail malpractice insurance if you change jobs or leave a job to open a private practice. Your medical malpractice insurance coverage from your previous employer ends on your last day of employment or termination of your contract. Your new employer’s medical malpractice insurance policy will not cover you for prior acts that occurred during your former employment. The same is true for a new standalone policy if you go into private practice instead.

If you don’t have tail insurance, you will be exposed to a lawsuit if a former patient files a claim against you for an incident that occurred while you were under contract with the previous employer. Some employers may offer tail insurance to departing employees, but the cost is typically more than 200% of regular medical malpractice coverage.

However, SURGPLI brokers will help you secure strong-tail malpractice insurance at a much more competitive rate that covers you retroactively from the first day of employment with your former employer. Learn more about tail malpractice insurance for surgeons and how SURGPLI can help you save money.

Get a quote now on robust medical malpractice coverage for surgeons.

Reach out to a SURGPLI broker who will answer your questions and help you understand the complexities of seeking medical malpractice insurance and tail coverage for surgeons — and most of all, work with you to find the best coverage and competitive rate for your surgical specialty and location. Also, ask about policy discounts from some carriers that may be available if you have a risk management strategy.

SURGPLI is the only broker you’ll ever need for your medical malpractice coverage needs.

Call us at 1-800-969-1339 or email us at info@SURGPLI.com.

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