According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2017 there were over 237,000 paramedics out on the streets helping and transporting injured people. If you’re one of them, you know how tough the job can be.
While you hope that every day on the job will go smoothly, that’s rarely the case. Paramedics are constantly working in emergency situations that are stressful and fast-changing, where speed can mean the difference between life and death.
When mistakes happen, regardless of whether they’re your fault or a patient wrongly believes you were negligent during their transport, you can find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Even giving medical advice to a friend or assisting someone while off duty can leave you exposed to litigation.
Just one lawsuit can be devastating to your financial well-being, so finding the right paramedic insurance is crucial. An independent insurance agent can help determine what coverages you should carry to ensure you’re fully protected as you perform your duties as a paramedic.
Insurance Options for Paramedics
Paramedics should have professional liability insurance when they need protection from mistakes or negligence that could result in financial loss. There are several types of professional liability, but when looking for paramedic insurance, medical malpractice is usually the most relevant.
These types of policies protect against professional errors that occur when you render your services. Paramedic malpractice insurance offers liability protection that’s associated with mistakes or negligence that result in bodily injury, medical expenses and even claims of mental anguish or pain and suffering.
It can also cover the cost of legal defense if you’re sued. This is important because these types of cases often involve complex investigation to defend claims when a patient outcome is adverse due to negligence or perceived negligence. In fact, for the majority of medical malpractice claims, defense costs are the biggest expense.
If a lawsuit results in a judgment against you or a settlement, a medical malpractice policy may cover those costs up to the policy limits. This protection can be a financial lifesaver; damages can easily run into hundreds of thousands in a major lawsuit.
There are two different types of medical malpractice insurance policies, claims-made and occurrence. Claims-made is a common and affordable type, but the way the policy responds is slightly different from occurrence. A claims-made policy responds if it was the policy in effect at the time the claim was made against you. Occurrence coverage pays out for any incident that happens while the policy is in force, even if the claim isn’t made or the lawsuit isn’t filed until after the policy has expired.
Doesn’t My Employer Carry Insurance?
In almost all situations your employer carries some type of insurance for paramedics, but in many cases the policy limits may not be enough to cover you during a serious incident.
The main goal of insurance policies for employers is to protect their business and interests. In some cases, paramedics may not even be aware of the coverages their employer carries to protect them while they’re out on the job.
Before starting a new job, ask your prospective employer about the insurance policies they offer for paramedics to protect you in the event you’re sued. Here are a few policy details to verify when considering a new job:
- Policy limits: Check the policy limits to make sure there’s enough coverage in the event of a major lawsuit. Common limits are: Up to $1 million for each claim and up to $3 million for the policy year.
- Claims-made or occurrence: While claims-made is more common, an occurrence policy offers some advantages.
- Legal fees: Does the policy cover the costs of your legal defense? Attorney fees quickly add up and can easily run into tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Verify that your legal defense will be covered.
Moonlighting is common in the paramedic world and can leave you exposed if you are depending on your employer’s insurance coverage. Your employer’s policy may not protect you when you’re off the clock, so having your own paramedics insurance policy can help ensure you’re protected. If you jump into action at an accident, you want to make sure you’re covered in the event someone sues. Employer policies may not cover you when you’re off the job.
Why Would I Be Sued?
While most paramedics want to believe that most jobs will go smoothly, with no errors, mistakes happen and they can be deadly.
On any given day a paramedic may perform any or all of the following procedures:
- Stabilizing patients for transport
- Assessing the seriousness of wounded or ill patients
- Transporting patients to a hospital
- Performing first aid
- Keeping records of vitals, procedures performed and any other conditions or factors that are relevant for doctors
- Performing life saving procedures such as CPR
Unfortunately, all of these everyday duties are ripe for mistakes or negligence, and that can lead to a lawsuit. Here are just a few things that can and do go wrong:
- Making an incorrect patient assessment
- Poor record keeping
- Negligence in cleaning and organizing the vehicle
- Administering the wrong medication
The loading and unloading of patients is one high-frequency reason for a paramedic malpractice claim. Regardless of whether the patient slips off the gurney and breaks a bone, or a back injury is made worse due to jostling of the gurney, you could end up being sued.
It is not only actual mistakes that you have to worry about. Even if you do everything right, sometimes patients aren’t satisfied with the outcome or feel you were negligent in some way.
Even if the claim isn’t valid, it still must be dealt with, and legal costs can quickly add up. A paramedics insurance policy will protect you and help cover the cost of your defense as well as judgments or settlements.
Other Coverages to Consider
Malpractice insurance for paramedics is a necessity, but there are two other coverages that should definitely be on your radar.
General liability: These policies usually cover bodily injuries and property damage that you cause and any resulting lawsuits. As an example, if a person (who isn’t the patient) trips over any equipment that you have out while working on a patient, there’s a possibility of a lawsuit. A general liability policy could cover the medical costs as well as the cost to defend against a resulting lawsuit.
The property damage portion of a general liability policy covers the cost of property damage that you cause to other people’s property. As an example, if you’re working on a patient in a store or home and break something valuable, you could be on the hook for replacement costs. A general liability policy can help cover those costs.
Most employers have insurance to cover these types of issues, but policy limits may be low, or you may be off duty when an incident occurs. Having your own policy ensures you’re always covered.
Auto insurance: If you work in a smaller community or work on a volunteer basis, you may end up using your own vehicle to get to emergency situations. If that’s the case, carrying the proper auto insurance is key.
Bodily injury and property damage are a must in the event you hurt someone or their property with your vehicle at an emergency site.
Collision and comprehensive coverage pay the cost to repair your vehicle if it’s damaged or destroyed at an emergency site. While this may sound far-fetched, major fires, explosions and severe weather incidents often require emergency personnel, and you may end up arriving in your own vehicle.
Finding Paramedic Liability Insurance
Lawsuits are becoming more and more common in the medical world and protecting yourself is important.
Even though they are the first on the scene during an emergency, paramedics are definitely not paid like doctors. According to Bureau of Labor statistics, paramedics pull down an average of $16.77 an hour, making affordable coverage a necessity.
When shopping for coverage, one of the most important factors to consider is the policy limit. Verify that the limits are enough to cover the cost of a major lawsuit. An independent insurance agent will help you determine what coverage limits you should be carrying and find a policy that fits your budget.
Also, verify how defense costs are handled by the policy. Some policies subtract the cost of legal defense from the claim limit, which means there will be less money to pay any judgments or settlements, potentially leaving you on the hook for the balance. Look for a policy that pays your defense costs on top of the claim limits.
Medical malpractice for paramedics can be complicated, so shopping around and getting numerous quotes is the best way to find the ideal policy. An independent insurance agent can do the comparison-shopping for you and present the best policy options to ensure you’re fully covered at an affordable price.