Can you sue a doctor who does not have malpractice insurance?


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Question:

I believe that I have been a victim of medical malpractice from my former doctor.  I recently found out that he does not carry malpractice insurance.  Can I still sue him and recover damages?

Answer:

You always have the option of suing your doctor for malpractice if you believe that you have been harmed by the provision of sub-standard medical care. That remains true whether or not your doctor carries liability or malpractice insurance.

In many states, doctors are required to carry liability or malpractice insurance -- or at least demonstrate that they have a certain amount of assets to cover a judgment against them. But as we all know, just because the law requires something, that doesn’t mean everyone is complying.

The vast majority of doctors make a calculated decision to carry insurance regardless of what the law says. Otherwise, a doctor who is sued by a patient alleging medical negligence will find him/herself personally on the financial hook for any judgment entered in the patient’s favor. But there is a bit of an underground trend of doctors choosing to practice without malpractice and liability insurance, usually because the cost of that insurance is prohibitive. Some of these doctors see insurers asking $75,000 in annual premiums, and they decide to roll the dice and go without coverage rather than pay for it. That’s a fine strategy, as long as they never end up facing a medical malpractice lawsuit.   

If your doctor is practicing without insurance, they are probably legally required to have a sign posted on the wall advising patients of that fact. And if your doctor works at a hospital or other care facility, the facility is probably legally required to make sure the doctor is properly insured (and you may be able to sue the hospital for allowing the doctor to practice at their facility without insurance).

So, chances are your doctor is insured, but even if they aren’t, you can still file a medical malpractice lawsuit against them. The larger question is what will happen if your lawsuit is successful. In other words, you prove your case, the jury decides in your favor, and the court enters a $1 million judgment in your favor. Since the doctor carries no insurance, collecting on that judgment just got a lot more complicated, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to collect anything at all, especially if the doctor has no significant assets.

by: , J.D.

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