Beyond a medical degree, there is one more necessity for every healthcare professional and that is medical malpractice insurance. Of course it could be argued that knowledge, experience, and trusting patients are the most needed ingredients to be a doctor. But all of those things eventually need something to back them up, and that comes down to insurance.

Insurance, by definition, is a practice or arrangement by which a company or government agency provides a guarantee of compensation for specified loss, damage, illness, or death in return for payment of a premium. In other words, if a person sues a doctor for medical malpractice, it is where the money comes from. And when a physician does not have medical malpractice insurance, malpractice cases take on a new element.

Medical malpractice insurance is often called medical professional liability insurance, but they provide the same service. The insurance protects physicians and other licensed health care professionals (nurses, orthodontists, etc.), from liability associated with wrongful practices resulting in bodily injury, medical expenses and property damage, as well as the cost of defending lawsuits related to such claims.

Whether or not a doctor practices with or without medical malpractice insurance is up to them. However, it largely depends on where in the world they are practicing medicine. For example, in Florida, doctors are generally required to carry medical malpractice insurance or otherwise demonstrate financial responsibility to cover potential claims for medical malpractice.

Back in 2013, the Huffington Post wrote a piece about patients being aware of when doctors “go bare,” which brings to light the importance of being aware during all doctors visits. If you see a doctor who does not have medical malpractice insurance, they are required to post a sign in the reception area that states the following:

“Under Florida law, doctors are generally required to carry medical malpractice insurance or otherwise demonstrate financial responsibility to cover potential claims for medical malpractice. However, certain part-time physicians who meet state requirements are exempt from the financial responsibility law. YOUR DOCTOR MEETS THESE REQUIREMENTS AND HAS DECIDED NOT TO CARRY MEDICAL MALPRACTICE INSURANCE. This notice is provided pursuant to Florida law.”

Given this information, it is extremely critical that all patients be aware that by seeing a doctor who does not have medical malpractice insurance, there is not always a guarantee that if malpractice were to occur, the proper outcome would happen. According to the Huffington Post, verdicts are often appealed and frequently reversed. They state that even when a judgment sticks, it can be tied up in a bankruptcy proceeding that could potentially delay payouts for years.

In general, there are two kinds of malpractice insurance polices that a physician can have at a given time. Although they both cover instances and mishaps, the difference between the two policy all revolves around when the situation, or instance of malpractice, happened.

Claims-made Policy

This is a policy providing coverage that is triggered when a claim is made against the insured during the policy period, regardless of when the wrongful act that gave rise to the claim took place. A claims-made policy only covers claims that are brought to light while the policy is in effect. The premium generally increases for about five years until it is considered “mature.”

Occurrence-based Policy

The difference between a claims-made policy and an occurrence-based policy is that an occurrence-based policy protects a doctor from any covered incident that occurs during the policy period, and it does not matter when the claim is filed. So, even after a policy has been canceled, if the incident occurred before that date, it should still be covered.

Tail Coverage

Additional elements are also available for policies and it always has to do with what insurance company a physician is insured through. Tail coverage, which is an extended reporting period endorsement. This coverage allows an insured physician the option to extend the coverage they have after cancellation or termination of a claims-made policy.

Prior Acts

This is a type of claims-made liability policy that does not contain a retroactive date and therefore covers claims arising from acts that took place at any time prior to the inception date of the policy, regardless of how far in the past the act took place. Like Tail Coverage, the Prior Act depends on what insurance company a physician is working with and also what kind of policy that they have or had in place.