As senior students wanting to earn their professional license, medical students must go through hours of hands-on clinical experience. As a matter of policy, they need to be supervised by full-time and licensed healthcare employees. But this doesn’t mean that they’re immune to malpractice lawsuits. At most, there’s only the reduced risk of paying settlements for malpractice complaints.
So, although not always a requirement, it would help if medical students, including nursing students, carry malpractice insurance to continue their practice without significant issues.
In this article, you’ll find the basics of medical malpractice, what malpractice insurance is, what to look for in a policy, and how to get one.
1. What Is Medical Malpractice?
Before getting malpractice insurance, all healthcare students need to brush up on their knowledge about medical malpractice. It’s important to note that not all patients who experience medical issues can sue. Multiple factors need to be present in a malpractice claim. Below are the most salient points:
- Duty of care: The plaintiff must establish that the healthcare professionals identified as defendants in a lawsuit are primarily responsible for their health, safety, and wellbeing when the alleged malpractice occurred.
- Failure to provide a proper standard of care: Healthcare professionals must comply with specific standards when caring for their patients. Failing to adhere to these standards and causing harm or injury to a patient can lead to a negligence claim.
- The patient suffers from an injury because of the alleged malpractice: The patient must prove direct causation between the alleged negligence or malpractice.
- The injury must have a damaging impact(s): The supposed malpractice must have led to considerable damage, which may either be economic or non-economic, namely loss of income, pain and suffering, or temporary or permanent disability.
Even the most common errors may lead to a malpractice case. The use of defective medical equipment, giving the wrong dosage or prescription, premature discharge, failure to follow up, not performing specific tests, developing bedsores, and infections in the hospital are a few of the numerous instances that may lead to medical negligence claims.
For physicians who spend a great deal of money and time to get accepted into medical school, malpractice insurance is a must. Doctors and nurses must conform to the highest standards and prevent fatal medical errors. However, mistakes could still happen. That’s why having the correct type of protection is critical.
2. Why Should Medical And Nursing Students Get Malpractice Insurance?
Medical students must complete specific hours of supervised learning in hospitals and other healthcare settings. They will gain invaluable lessons about patient care with these clinical duties.
While caring for a patient, they may be asked to perform specific hands-on training that could impact the patient’s wellbeing. After all, any human being, whether well-trained or not, may commit mistakes and errors inadvertently. Malpractice insurance is helpful for medical students to continue their practice and cushion them from financial difficulties if they’re named one of the defendants in a malpractice allegation.
3. What Is Malpractice Insurance?
A Johns Hopkins study released in 2016 revealed that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, with up to 440,000 patients dying each year due to malpractice. Medical errors include administering the wrong treatment, misdiagnosis, and faulty advice for treatment.
Malpractice insurance is a form of protection designed specifically for medical practitioners. It covers liabilities arising from patients who claim to have been injured or have suffered from damages due to faulty medical practice.
While healthcare facilities often have malpractice coverage for their full-time employees, interns, students, and volunteers aren’t always included in the coverage. This means you may have to purchase your own as a student if you want to be protected.
4. What Are The Types of Malpractice Insurance?
Medical malpractice insurance has two major classifications. As a medical student, you can choose which type of protection you need. To help you decide which one to choose, find out more about these types below:
- Claims-made insurance: This type of malpractice insurance provides protection when a lawsuit is filed and when the alleged incident took place. Considering that years may have passed since the incident and the filing of a case, most claims-made insurance provides a coverage period known as a ‘tail,’ which takes effect for a considerable period after the end of the policy. A tail coverage may be bought separately from the same insurance company if not included in the original policy. Most tail coverage is priced more than the annual malpractice insurance policy.
- Occurrence insurance: This type of insurance covers any incident while the policy is in effect. Occurrence insurance is unique in that a policy owner can still make claims even if the policy period has lapsed. Because they’re designed, occurrence claims don’t require tail coverage. Being costlier than claims-made insurance, it can be understandable why some healthcare facilities don’t offer this type of coverage.
5. What’s Often Included In A Malpractice Coverage?
Apart from understanding the two major types of coverage, knowing which expenses are covered once the inevitable happens is crucial. This way, you get to know what to expect, so there are no surprises down the road.
If you’re found liable for the injuries and damages incurred by a patient, your insurance will typically cover the following costs:
- Litigation costs: Costs related to the malpractice lawsuit, including lawyer’s fees
- Arbitration costs: If the patient has agreed to a private settlement
- Settlement costs: When a plaintiff is willing to settle out of court and decides to withdraw the malpractice case
- Punitive and compensatory damages: If the court decides you’re liable for malpractice, you may not be sent to jail, but will be asked to pay compensatory and, possibly, punitive fees for the damages and injuries incurred by the patient. Compensatory damages may be economic, such as medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and loss of income. It can also be non-economic like in the case of mental anguish, suffering, loss of motivation, and joy, to name a few.
Medical malpractice insurance doesn’t cover the costs of certain deliberate acts, such as altering medical records or unauthorized sharing of patient records and other related liabilities. It’s also not intended to pay for liabilities incurred while performing certain medical-related acts, for instance, injuries that occur while unloading or loading a patient. Some policies don’t even cover claims made by patients for certain types of medical procedures, such as the administration of anesthesia.
6. What To Look For In A Malpractice Insurance
Apart from coverage inclusions, there are other things to look for when comparing medical malpractice policies, such as the following:
- Exclusions: Malpractice policies contain many exclusions, including incidents that are considered related to patient care. Find out the inclusions in the policies you’re considering and check whether you’re tasked to perform these specific exclusions. If you are, it’s probably best to skip the insurance product in question.
- Limits: Understanding how the policy assigns limits is crucial in any insurance policy. That’s because the ‘limit’ determines the highest amount that a policy pays for each covered claim. There are two significant limits imposed by malpractice insurance: annual and individual limits. An individual limit is the maximum amount the insurer will cover for damages. An annual limit, or aggregate limit, is the amount that an insurance company pays in a year while the policy is in effect. It may apply to each claim or each event.
- Settlement and litigation costs coverage: While all malpractice policies cover the costs of litigation and settlements, they’re not absolute. Some policies impose restrictions, such as paying exclusively for an attorney chosen by the company to represent you and setting limits on the amount. In addition, some policies only offer to pay certain settlements with or without your consent.
- The insurance provider’s reputation: Premium costs aside, medical students must also look at the insurer’s financial status and reputation. Check what their customers say about how easy (or challenging) it is to file and process claims. If possible, reach out to their real customers for more details. See whether there are pending complaints about the company by visiting or contacting the state insurance commissioner’s office. And, while you’re there, take a look at the minimum requirements imposed by the state for your chosen practice.
7. How Medical Students Can Get Malpractice Insurance Coverage
There are two ways to purchase medical malpractice insurance, as can be seen below:
- From a private insurance provider
- Through a medical risk retention group or a medical professionals’ group that offers such policy
As a medical student, your insurance needs may vary depending on your status and the risks involved. It’s best to talk with your supervisor or an insurance specialist to choose the best option that fits your requirements.
If you’re a medical student, earning hands-on experience and applying your knowledge are paramount before seeking a license. Concentrating on practical skills and knowledge should be your priority, not a potential malpractice lawsuit.
With the help of this guide, you’ll be able to understand what insurance malpractice is and what things you should look for when choosing one. Before signing, it’s critical to spend time checking the terms of the policy. This not only helps provide you with the protection you need, but it also lifts the restrictions on your learning opportunities by giving you peace of mind.