If you get sick or injured in Fort Lauderdale or anywhere in the State of Florida, you need to ask yourself an important question before seeking medical treatment: Does your doctor have medical malpractice insurance?
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other healthcare professional provides substandard treatment that causes harm, injury or death to a patient under their care. Substandard care in this case means below the standard of care for the specific type of physician who was treating you. For example, if you were injured by a medical error while undergoing heart surgery, “standard care” would refer to what a typical heart surgeon would have done in the same circumstance.
If you are injured due to a medical error on the part of a physician, you have a right to seek compensation for the damages resulting from this error.
Unfortunately, the number of “bare” doctors in Florida – doctors who have inadequate or even no medical malpractice insurance – is on the increase, mainly because of Florida state laws and the high costs of insurance that doctors are reluctant to pay.
Florida Medical Malpractice Laws
Doctors who have hospital staff privileges or perform surgery at an ambulatory surgical center must have professional liability coverage in an amount not less than $250,000 per claim, with a minimum annual aggregate of not less than $750,000 from an authorized insurer. As an alternative to medical malpractice insurance, these Doctors have the option of establishing an irrevocable letter of credit or escrow account in an amount of $250,000/$750,000.
Doctors who do not have hospital staff privileges and do not perform surgery at an ambulatory surgical center must obtain and maintain professional liability coverage in an amount not less than $100,000 per claim, with a minimum annual aggregate of not less than $300,000. They, too, have the option of establishing an irrevocable letter of credit or an escrow account in an amount of $100,000/$300,000.
Under certain circumstances, Doctors can practice medicine without having medical malpractice insurance. In this case, the treating doctor must post notice in the form of a sign prominently displayed and clearly noticeable to all patients or provide a written statement to any person to whom medical services are being provided.
The sign or statement must read as follows: “Under Florida law, physicians 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.”
Certain doctors are exempt from these requirements, such as those who practice medicine exclusively as an officer, employee, or agent of the federal government, state government or its agencies or subdivisions.
These laws were enacted to ensure patients are financially protected from any act of negligence on the part of a treating physician.
Often doctors who choose to go bare hire highly skilled attorneys, CPAs and other financial planners to implement financial strategies that ensure their assets cannot be taken in the event of a judgement against them. A bare doctor can also file bankruptcy to protect their assets.
The medical board of Florida is supposed to discipline doctors when they don’t satisfy judgement, but in this author’s opinion, they rarely do this. And even when they do, it rarely benefits the injured party.
You Can Still File a Medical Malpractice Claim against a Doctor without Insurance
Just because a doctor doesn’t have medical malpractice insurance doesn’t mean you can’t pursue compensation for your medical malpractice injuries. However, it can limit the amount you of money you will be able to collect. You may not be able to settle out of court; a favorable decision may be irrelevant because the chances of any kind of meaningful recovery are slim. And even if you win a medical malpractice claim against a doctor without insurance, you may need to file a new lawsuit to collect the money from the first lawsuit.
If a hospital or clinic where the doctor practiced shares liability for your injury, then you may be able to file a claim against the hospital for allowing the doctor to practice there. While hospitals are required to make sure the physicians they give privileges to are insured, the Florida Supreme Court says this does not make the hospital completely liable if the doctor fails to do so.
It doesn’t help that enforcement of these rules is extremely lax. It’s easier for a doctor to get away with practicing medicine without the necessary amount of liability insurance than it is to drive a car in Florida without the necessary amount of liability insurance.
As one can imagine, many hospital administrators are not too happy about this. Insured doctors are also concerned about the impact uninsured and underinsured doctors will have on their practices. They are often very careful about referring patients to bare doctors for fear that the referring doctor may be held liable for a bare doctor’s error.
For a doctor, having insurance tells patients that they are a responsible professional who cares about the welfare of their patients and are willing to compensate a patient in the event of an error. A person should think carefully before seeking treatment from a doctor who doesn’t carry a sufficient amount of medical malpractice insurance.
Speak with a Fort Lauderdale Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you have been injured as a result of a doctor’s negligence and are unsure if the physician is covered by medical malpractice insurance, it’s important that you speak to an experienced Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible after your injury.
Lisa Levine, P.A. has been helping those injured by medical negligence in Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Sunrise, Boca Raton, Coral Springs and other South Florida communities for more than 35 years. She has the knowledge, skills and expertise to handle a wide variety of medical malpractice claims and will aggressively pursue the maximum and fair amount of compensation her clients are due.
If you were hurt by a medical error, call the law offices of Lisa Levine at (954) 256-1820 to schedule a free consultation today. We will discuss the facts in your case, answer any questions you may have, and provide sound professional advice on how to move forward with your claim. Our medical malpractice cases are handled on a contingency basis, which means that, should we decide to accept your case, you pay no fees unless we win your case.