Feet don’t often top the list of most people’s most pressing healthcare concerns. But when something goes wrong, a good podiatrist is essential.
Podiatrists help all kinds of patients with conditions from skin or nail diseases to complications from diabetes and heart disease. A podiatrist can mean the difference between losing a limb or saving it from amputation for people with severe foot and ankle problems.
Podiatry may not be as risky as many other medical specialties—like obstetrics or anesthesiology—but any medical professional can make a mistake or be blamed when something goes wrong with a patient’s treatment.
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Why Do Podiatrists Get Sued for Malpractice?
Physicians are human, and even the smartest and most qualified professionals can make a mistake. Whether you are at fault for a patient’s problem or not, you can still be blamed.
Consider the following:
- An incorrect diagnosis leads to unnecessary surgery
- After several surgeries on a high-risk patient, treatment has failed and the patient’s foot must be amputated
- A patient is unhappy with the cosmetic appearance of ingrown toenail removal, and decides to sue
- Mistakes during simple bunion surgery cause abnormal healing and bone movement, causing the patient further pain and a permanent limp
- Failure to properly identify a cancerous growth on a patient’s foot leads to a delayed diagnosis and poor prognosis
In any of these situations, and many others, you can be sued—even if you are not at fault. Then, you’ll have to spend a lot of money to defend yourself.
Why Do I Need Podiatrist Malpractice Insurance?
Any mistake or oversight that negatively impacts a patient can result in a lawsuit. Podiatrist malpractice insurance is essential for protecting the livelihood of any practicing podiatrist.
Defending a malpractice suit is expensive, even if you win. Your defense costs might include attorney fees, court costs, expert witness fees, and any settlements or judgments you must pay to an injured person.
Providers often win malpractice cases, but the costs of defending the case are almost always unrecoverable. Podiatrist malpractice insurance protects your healthcare practice from the costs of malpractice claims and lawsuits.
What Does Podiatrist Malpractice Insurance cover?
Different types of medical professionals have different types of risks that need to be covered by their malpractice insurance. You will need to work closely with your insurance agent to make sure your policy fits the needs of your podiatry practice.
In general, podiatrist malpractice insurance covers you for liability claims arising from careless or intentionally harmful treatment.
Medical malpractice insurance typically excludes coverage for treatment errors due to illegal conduct, sexual improprieties, factual misrepresentations on the application for insurance, hospital or lab administration, or medical records alteration.
Nearly all states require that physicians have professional liability coverage, and even if the state does not require it, you will need medical malpractice insurance in order to get privileges to see patients at a hospital.
Podiatrist malpractice insurance can be purchased from a commercial insurance company or a physician-owned company. Providers often obtain coverage through their group practice or corporate entity. It needs to cover the physician, the entity (corporation, LLC, partnership, etc.), and any employees.
What Kind of Malpractice Coverage Should I Buy?
Podiatrist malpractice insurance can be purchased for dollar limits that are appropriate for your practice. Most policies specify:
- An individual limit (the most that will be paid for any one claim), and
- An aggregate limit (the most that will be paid in any policy year for all claims).
If your policy has limits of $1,000,000/$3,000,000, this means it will pay a maximum of $1 million per claim and $3 million for all claims during a policy term.
There are two types of medical professional liability policies: claims-made policies and occurrence policies. Both types of policies are very complex. You need to know how each one works and pays claims, and then purchase the one that works best for your specialty and unique needs.
- Claims-made policies: This distinction means that claims must be made within the policy period. Stated simply, your podiatrist malpractice policy must be active when the incident occurs, and when the claim is made. These policies include a retroactive date to allow for incidents that occurred before the policy was in force to be reported after the policy is in force—with claims occurring before the retroactive date not covered.
How your policy handles claims that occur before the policy is in force is extremely important for you to understand. While most malpractice insurance today is purchased on a claims-made basis, occurrence policies are also available.
- Occurrence policies: This means that the act, error, or omission must occur during the policy period and the claim can be made anytime thereafter, even after the policy has been canceled.
How Should I Choose a Podiatrist Malpractice Insurance Company?
Most healthcare professionals purchase and keep the same malpractice insurance for the life of their practice. If you cancel and move to another carrier, you could have gaps in coverage.
A new claims-made policy, for example, would leave you without coverage for any incidents that occurred before the policy was in force. For that reason, tail coverage and prior acts coverage is available.
- Tail coverage: allows claims to be made after a policy has been terminated if the incidents occurred while the policy was in force
- Prior acts coverage: protects you for acts that have occurred but have not yet been reported
Podiatrists must select a financially strong insurance company that will be around for the life of their practice. An insurance company’s financial rating is an effective predictor of its strength and longevity.
Medical malpractice insurance is very important for all health care providers, and also very complicated with a lot of variations. Podiatrists need to understand their policy and the implications of making changes to it over time.
It’s best to talk to an independent agent to who can help you compare policies and companies, read and understand the terms, and make an informed decision.
How Much Does Podiatrist Malpractice Insurance Cost?
Podiatrist malpractice insurance does not work like auto insurance, which is “experience rated,” meaning premiums are based on the insured person’s driving experience. Malpractice premiums are based on the physician’s specialty and geographic location, not his or her own claims experience.
Even if a physician has never been sued, he or she might pay extremely high premiums if the specialty requires high coverage limits or has high claims severity and frequency. The location of the practice and laws in the area also have an impact on malpractice insurance premiums.
Fortunately, podiatrist professional liability insurance is typically far less costly than malpractice insurance for many other medical specialties.
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Podiatrists need specialized professional liability coverage for the specific and unique risks they face. It’s important to work with an independent agent who can find insurance companies who specialize in covering your podiatrist liability risks, and who may sell malpractice insurance specifically designed for your specialty.
An independent agent can help you find the right policy and can help you assess your options.
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TrustedChoice.com Article | Reviewed by Paul Martin
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