“To err is human,” the English poet Alexander Pope wrote in 1709. The phrase is increasingly true for physicians today, who are involved in more medical malpractice claims than many may realize. More than half of physicians have been named in malpractice lawsuits — and 58% reported being “very surprised” by the suit, according to Medscape’s 2017 malpractice report.
Fortunately, CompHealth is prepared for the possibility of malpractice and will work closely to defend and support you should a claim occur. Read on to learn how CompHealth handles malpractice claims.
What does CompHealth’s medical malpractice policy cover?
CompHealth’s medical malpractice policy covers up to $1 million per malpractice claim and $3 million for the aggregate policy period (usually Feb. 1 to Feb. 1 of the next year). This means $3 million is the total amount paid for that year. Legal or expert fees needed to defend the provider’s care are paid in addition to the $1,000,000 policy limit.
However, CompHealth’s policy also offers an extra provision for administrative actions, like a board investigation or peer review, up to $25,000 per policy period.
What happens when a malpractice claim is filed?
Once a claim has been filed, the physician must contact CompHealth’s risk manager, Tammie Healy, and provide a copy of the allegations. She will then retain a local attorney with connections in the area to facilitate the best possible defense.
“These attorneys are time-tested, and most have worked with our company for years. They understand the unique needs of a locums physician,” Tammie says. “We aggressively defend our providers against any written complaint or suit.”
How does CompHealth communicate with the provider during the process?
The attorneys CompHealth retains will communicate with the doctor about the case strategy and any new developments, which is confidential as attorney-client privilege. However, CompHealth listens to the doctor’s input about the direction they’d like to take the claim.
“We try to provide the doctor with the most optimal outcome possible,” Tammie says. “We don’t make decisions based on the cost of defense. We make decisions based on the ability to defend the case.”
What support does CompHealth provide?
Tammie encourages doctors to get in touch with the risk management team or attorney at any time during the malpractice claims process.
“If they’re having anxiety related to the litigation or it becomes overwhelming, they need to reach out. We’ll see what we can do to alleviate some of their stress,” Tammie says.
What are the possible outcomes of a malpractice suit?
The possible outcomes include dismissal without payment, dismissal with payment, a verdict with no liability, and a verdict with liability.
“Once the file is resolved, the doctor will receive a full dismissal from the litigation. Unless a jury actually finds him liable, every other outcome denies liability,” Tammie says.
If a malpractice claim is filed, what does that mean to the CompHealth/provider working relationship?
If a physician is involved in a malpractice suit, CompHealth continues to support him or her — even if the case outcome is a verdict with liability.
“A [malpractice] case is not an indication that the provider is a poor provider or not qualified to practice medicine. Just because a jury thinks that they have liability doesn’t mean there is liability,” Tammie says.
How can a physician make the malpractice claims process easier?
While no one really wins in medical malpractice situations, a provider can improve the situation by being honest with the risk management team immediately.
“The minute you receive any inkling that there’s a [malpractice] event or adverse outcome, report it right away. Don’t wait for litigated papers to come,” Tammie says. “If it has escalated and you’ve received any paperwork, it’s critical that we get that paperwork on time. We have a limited amount of time to respond to litigation, and if we miss that window, it becomes very complicated.”
Tammie says the risk management team is here to help and partner with providers on malpractice claims.
“We’re not just an insurance carrier. We want to work very closely with our doctors, because what they do touches us too,” she says. “We defend what we can, and we work really hard to do that.”
If you have questions about CompHealth’s malpractice claims process or need to report an incident, call CompHealth at 888.212.0816 and ask to speak to the risk management department.