Malpractice Insurance 101: What To Look for When Buying

If you need medical malpractice liability insurance, finding the right policy can be a challenge. When you’re not familiar with basic terms of malpractice insurance, it can all be a confusing blur.

In our guide, “Malpractice Insurance 101: What To Look For When Buying,” we’ll go through the crucial terms and policies that medical professionals should know when choosing an insurance carrier and coverage.

Occurrence vs. Claims-Made Policies

There are two types of professional liability coverage for medical professionals: occurrence and claims-made policies. Each policy has its benefits and disadvantages, so we’ll break down the vital info you need to know before deciding.

Occurrence Policies

Occurrence policies cover incidents during the policy period regardless of when the plaintiff files the claim. Essentially, no matter when the claim is filed, an occurrence policy covers events that occurred during the policy period, even if your policy is expired or terminated.

For example, suppose you had an occurrence policy in 2017 that expired in 2020. Then, in 2022, a malpractice claim is filed against you for an incident in 2017. Even though your policy has expired, you’d still be covered because the claim is for an incident that occurred during the coverage.

Pros

The primary benefit of occurrence coverage is that you don’t have to worry about your policy expiring to maintain your protection. If you plan on only working in the medical field for a few years before moving on to something else or retiring, occurrence coverage could be your best option, as it doesn’t require extended coverage when the policy expires.

Over time, the total costs of occurrence coverage balance out to about the same as a claims-made policy.

Cons

Occurrence coverage is not as standard as claims-made policies because it’s challenging for insurers to estimate claims costs years or decades after a policy expires. Occurrence policies are also typically more expensive for the first couple of years until the policy reaches maturity.

Claims-Made Policies

As opposed to an occurrence policy, a claims-made policy only covers the insured for incidents that happen while the policy is still active. Once the policy is terminated, so is the coverage, unless additional “tail” or “nose” coverage is purchased afterward.

In the same example of a claim filing before, a claims-made policy would not cover an incident that occurred years prior if the coverage is no longer active, even if the incident happened while the policy was in force.

Pros

Claims-made policies are much more common than occurrence ones and are typically less expensive in the initial years of coverage. The lower premiums allow the insured to have more cash flow, so they’re generally popular with businesses and facilities.

Cons

The disadvantage of a claims-made policy is that it’s only effective when still active. The insured must keep up with the policy to ensure that there are no gaps in coverage. Once the coverage expires, tail or nose coverage is recommended to ensure you’re still protected from future litigation.

Tail vs. Nose Coverage for Claims-Made Policies

Tail and nose coverage are both additions to claims-made policies and refer to extended coverage of the insured once a policy expires. We’ll explain what each policy means and how they’re different.

Tail Coverage

A tail policy covers incidents that happened when the insured had an active claims-made policy, but a claim was not filed until the policy’s expiration. For example, if you’re sued for an incident that occurred years prior while working but have since retired and therefore don’t have an active policy, tail coverage will still see you’re protected.

If you plan to take a leave of absence, retire, switch employers, or change your insurance, tail coverage will ensure there are no gaps in your coverage.

Nose Coverage

A nose policy, also known as “prior acts,” functions similarly to a tail policy, but instead, it’s an alternative if you’re purchasing coverage from a new insurance carrier. A nose policy covers any claim before your new policy activates, but after your previous policy expires.

Typically, nose coverage is more affordable than tail coverage, but every individual policy differs. It can be confusing to differentiate the two policies; a simple way to tell them apart is knowing that tail coverage comes from your old insurance carrier, while nose coverage comes from your new one.

Individual vs. Group Policies

Along with occurrence and claims-made policies, you’ll also choose between an individual and group policy. The two types of policies are very distinct, so we’ll break down what you need to know for each.

Individual Policies

An individual policy is what it sounds like—a policy purchased by an individual which covers them, and them alone.

Pros

The primary benefit of an individual policy is the control it offers—you would control the proof of insurance, and you don’t need to rely on an employer to verify your coverage. Individual policies are especially beneficial if you move onto another employer or retire, and a claim comes up years later.

As the holder of an individual policy, you’re still covered when working at a new job, at an additional job, or when volunteering. Plus, as an individual policyholder, you don’t have to worry about possible conflicts of interest in a group policy.

Cons

You don’t have to rely on others in an individual policy, but you also don’t have the same strength in numbers. There is no limit of liability in an individual policy as you don’t share coverage with other employees. Typically, individual policies are more expensive than group policies.

Group Policies

Group medical practice liability insurance is when all hospital, clinic, or other facility employees are covered by the same policy together. Some employers require that their employees join the group liability insurance to work at the facility.

Pros

Employers favor group policies as they make claims and litigation more streamlined. A single attorney represents all employees to manage the suit instead of numerous parties each negotiating, allowing for a more streamlined process.

Cons

As an employee, a group policy means that you’ll have less control than an individual policy. It also won’t cover you when you work outside your direct employers, such as an additional job or volunteer work.

If you are part of a group policy, you should:

  • Procure a copy of the entire policy, or at least the certificate of insurance
  • Verify you’re listed by name on the policy
  • Understand if it’s an occurrence or a claims-made policy
  • Obtain copies of the policy every year (even after you’ve left the employer)

Insurance Carriers and What To Look For

Once you’ve decided what type of policy best suits you, it’s time to browse the many insurance carriers available. If you’re joining a group policy, you won’t have a choice, but you’ll have many options if you’re hunting for an individual policy.

While researching, it’s essential to evaluate the carrier’s financial strength. Independent agencies such as A.M. Best & Company rate insurance carriers on grades such as Excellent and Good. Avoid any company with a rating below Excellent, even if it means saving a few dollars.

Medical liability insurance is tricky for people to understand, but we hope our guide on what to look for when buying malpractice insurance has helped make malpractice insurance easier to understand.

Malpractice Insurance 101: What To Look for When Buying

The 3 Most Common CRNA Malpractice Claims

If you’re a CRNA or any medical professional, you understand medical malpractice claims can financially damage you and take up your time. CRNAs have an essential job with life-and-death stakes, which means they can find themselves targets of litigation when negative outcomes occur.

Our detailed guide looks at how often malpractice claims name CRNAs, the legal requirements for malpractice claims, and the three most common CRNA malpractice claims.

Do CRNAs Get Sued?

Yes, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) sometimes come under litigation with accusations of medical malpractice. CRNAs have a lot of responsibility in monitoring and aiding in administering anesthesia, which is almost always safe but can give rise to dangerous complications that can cause severe complications and even death.

When working in any position that sometimes has adverse outcomes that result in injury or death, litigation is likely to follow, even if the anesthesiologists and CRNAs performed their duties correctly.

Is it common for CRNAs to be Named in Malpractice Lawsuits?

CRNAs are often named in malpractice lawsuits.  Now that CRNAs have more autonomy, they are often responsible for creating and implementing an anesthesia and treatment plan, so much of the responsibility falls on them.

Do CRNAs Get Sued More Often Than Others?

Relative to other medical professions, malpractice claims don’t target CRNAs substantially more than similar positions. But there is a belief that the rate at which CRNAs face malpractice claims could rise. Unfortunately, it’s due to one of the benefits of the job.

Recently, CRNAs have been given more autonomy in their profession, which means that it’s common for CRNAs to practice independently. Independence benefits CRNAs, but it also makes them more solely liable for mistakes and complications. CRNA liability insurance is crucial for CRNAs, especially if they operate an independent practice.

Legal Requirements for Medical Malpractice Claims and Litigation

Before a medical malpractice claim can move forward in litigation toward resolution, it must first pass some legal requirements. The following are the primary legal hurdles a medical malpractice claim has to clear to continue.

Violation of Standard Medical Care

A patient has rights, including informed consent and an expectation from the CRNA to follow standard and safe medical care. A medical malpractice claim has to prove that a patient’s medical care from a CRNA, or any medical professional, deviated from or violated standard medical care.

They’re vague terms, but omission and negligence are the two commonly used standards for violating standard care. So either the CRNA purposely omitted medical care, for whatever reason, or they neglected the patient, either intentionally or unintentionally. Neglect is ultimately the most common reasoning, especially when dealing with malpractice claims related to overworking or exhaustion.

Serious Injury or Damage

If a claim clears the first hurdle, it then has to show that the patient suffered from severe injury or damage. Now, how serious is a serious injury? That’s a tricky legal question, but it doesn’t include a small scratch from a fingernail.

Some of the terms malpractice claims use are suffering, hardship, pain, disability, significant medical bills, loss of income, and sometimes death. A medical malpractice claim has to prove the patient went through one of these damages to continue litigation; if no damage is shown or considered, the lawsuit does not continue.

Injury Caused Due to Violation of Medical Care

The final legal hurdle is for the malpractice claim to show that the first factor caused the second factor. Essentially, the patient suffered damage because of a deviation from the standard medical care of the defendant.

It’s not enough that a claim shows there was a deviation of standard care, and there were also damages; the claim has to prove that one caused the other. Unfavorable outcomes are not enough to file malpractice claims if it’s deemed the professionals administered proper medical care, but a negative result happened anyway.

Likewise, a malpractice claim won’t go forward simply because of a violation of standard care if no significant injury is proven. For a claim to be successful, it has to prove all three factors.

3 Most Common CRNA Malpractice Claims

We know what makes up a malpractice claim, but what are the most common claims against CRNAs? Every case is different, but some of the most common issues follow these general trends.

Sub-Par Performance of Procedures

Many medical malpractice claims leveled against CRNAs regard the application of specific procedures including, but not limited to, anesthesia and intubation. For instance, many CRNAs are also airway experts, which means that they commonly intubate patients before a procedure or even in emergencies.

Intubation is a standard procedure, but mistakes happen, and intubation errors can result in significant injury and death. If, for example, a CRNA intubating a patient misses the windpipe, the resulting complications can result in brain injury or death, more so if it’s an emergency procedure.

Poor Monitoring of Patients

Perhaps the most common reason for a medical malpractice claim against CRNAs is the pre- and post-procedure monitoring of patients. If a CRNA doesn’t check up on their patients regularly, complications can quickly grow and lead to more extensive damages and injuries for the patient.

It’s common to see this complaint in a facility dealing with understaffed departments where facilities task CRNAs with monitoring too many patients. An emergency happens with one patient that the CRNA has to tend to, leaving other patients vulnerable for extended periods.

Suffering From Improper Positioning

During a surgical procedure that uses anesthesia, the anesthesiologist and CRNA are responsible for positioning the patient for the procedure so that it doesn’t harm the patient.

If, for instance, a patient is positioned on their side with most of their weight on their elbow for hours, it could lead to damage to their ulnar nerve, also known as the funny bone. It may seem simple, but improper positioning by the anesthesiologist or CRNA could lead to long-term nerve damage for patients.

Those are three of the most common CRNA malpractice claims, but there are still many more varieties of claims. Medical professionals have much to deal with, but with proper liability insurance, they can do their jobs without fear of improper medical claims that can waste their time and money.

The 3 Most Common CRNA Malpractice Claims

Common Mistakes To Avoid for Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners are vital to the healthcare industry as they work directly with doctors and patients. As well-trained and educated as any nurse is, errors can still happen. We’ve compiled some of the most common mistakes to avoid for nurse practitioners to give professionals an idea of typical errors that arise.

Medication Administration Errors

The most common malpractice claims against nurse practitioners (NPs) have to do with medication administration. NPs administer medicine to patients countless times every day, so it’s not unlikely that mistakes are made regarding the amount of medication, the type of medication, or even medication administered to the wrong patient.

Whether you’re a new nurse or a veteran, mistakes happen, so having a malpractice insurance plan for nurse practitioners is crucial. NPs recommend highlighting the patient’s conditions and the essential information to ensure they receive the proper medication. Also, double-check the chart and documentation to ensure the medication list is updated accurately.

Causing Infections

One of the starkest dangers facing patients is infection. As NPs come into close contact with so many patients regularly, they carry the potential of spreading bacteria and causing infections.

Infections are persistent, so NPs can never be careless when it comes to personal hygiene and equipment sanitation. Every NP already knows this, but it’s crucial to emphasize infection prevention, even if the practices become repetitive.

Improper Documentation

Documentation is another common area where NPs can make errors. NPs are responsible for filling out a lot of paperwork, so it’s not surprising that mistakes can happen or their handwriting becomes illegible to others.

The best advice NPs have to offer is to fill out documentation promptly, write as clearly as possible, and pay extra attention to the details. A misread chart or improperly filed documentation can lead to severe consequences for the patient.

Patients Falling

NPs are responsible for the health and safety of patients most of the time, including protecting them from themselves. One of the most common hospital injuries is when patients attempt to move or get out of bed and fall.

NPs can’t physically restrain all of their patients, obviously, but they should always try to watch their patients. Explain to them the dangers of overestimating their strength and trying to move before their body is ready.

Nurses have many responsibilities and duties to complete every day, so the occasional error happens. But, keep an eye on these common mistakes to avoid for nurse practitioners, and you’ll improve your job performance and better legally protect yourself.

4 Helpful CRNA Career Tips You Should Know

Advancing your career is a challenge, no matter what industry you’re in. It takes many years of education and training to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), so once you’ve made it, you want to do everything you can to protect and grow your career. If you’re looking for advice, check out these helpful CRNA career tips you should know.

Network With Other CRNAs

No matter what industry you’re in—whether it’s healthcare, service, financial, or anything else—networking with other professionals is a good idea. The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) and other nursing organizations frequently host conferences, workshops, and other events that are excellent opportunities for CRNAs to increase their network.

What better resource is there to offer advice and consultation on your career than other professionals who have gone through or are experiencing the same challenges as you?

Get Protected

If you haven’t already, CRNA malpractice insurance is an absolute necessity. A medical malpractice claim can quickly ruin a CRNA’s career and financial situation without proper insurance. Accidents and misunderstandings happen, and if you’re not adequately protected, your career that you’ve worked so hard for can be severely damaged.

Work With a Recruiter

Working with a staffing partner offers many advantages if you’re on the hunt for a new position in a new facility. Recruiters have more resources and a more extensive network to work with, which means more opportunities for you to consider.

Even if you’re not actively looking for a new placement, it’s still worthwhile to keep yourself appraised of open positions and your possible options. Sometimes, the opportunity you’ve always been looking for appears when you’re not searching for it.

Consider Traveling

A growing trend in the healthcare industry and with nurses is travel placements. Staff shortages during the pandemic forced many facilities to use travel nurses—professionals from other parts of the country relocated to fill in on staff temporarily.

If you feel like you’re in a rut and want to experiment with different locations and facilities, taking a travel placement is an excellent opportunity. Travel nurses typically earn a higher wage and are compensated for housing and relocation. Maybe your temporary placement will turn permanent!

We hope that these helpful CRNA career tips you should know have given you something to think about with your career. It’s an interesting time for nurses and the healthcare industry, so keep your eyes and ears open as you never know when or where career opportunities will present themselves.

What Is a Claims-Made Policy Coverage Trigger?

Insurance provides protection when we need it most. For example, medical professionals access their medical malpractice insurance in the event of a patient claim. What is a claims-made policy coverage trigger? Here is a brief overview of the insurance procedure. 

Claims-Made Malpractice Insurance Policies

Medical malpractice insurance comes in two main types: occurrence and claims-made policies. You can read more about them here. Though both kinds of insurance require a triggering event, incident claims triggers mainly relate to a claims-made policy. Claims-made medical malpractice insurance covers the insured when a patient makes a claim against their attending physician, CRNA, or another medical professional. A claims-made policy requires both the incident in question and the claim from the patient to occur while under the policy. Unlike occurrence policies, claims-made insurance sets the parameters a bit tighter to provide more accurate coverage. 

The Place of Incident Claims Triggers

Triggers can vary in detail, but there are two main ways to initiate insurance action: written notifications and reported incidents. On the one hand, when a notification of intent or a notice of a claim arrives at an insurance company, they know the details and severity of the issue at hand. In response to the written communication, they will trigger your insurance policy. On the other hand, depending on the provider, if an insured notifies their insurer of a potential incident, this will also trigger the policy. Some insurance providers will not accept reported incidents as grounds for action, but here at Baxter & Associates, we take such information seriously. For example, our preferred CRNA malpractice insurance program includes the incident claims trigger benefit as well as several others.

How This Affects You

At the end of the day, the type of coverage trigger in your policy affects how your insurance takes effect when you need it. You want an insurance agency that will listen to your concerns and make funds available to you as needed. Make sure you know what to look for in a malpractice insurance provider. When you shop for insurance, ask agents whether they offer incident claims coverage triggers and what forms of notification the carriers they represent accept. This will give you an idea about their willingness to back you in times of duress.

 

What’s a claims-made policy coverage trigger? We can talk you through it. If you need medical malpractice insurance as a medical professional in any role, reach out to us at Baxter & Associates for more insurance information today. 

The Most Common Types of Nurses and What They Do

The world of nursing is quite expansive, which can feel overwhelming for those unfamiliar with the territory. There are plenty of nursing opportunities with varying educational and experience requirements. Here are the most common types of nurses and what they do.

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse Practitioners—or NPs—work at the highest level of the nursing profession. These healthcare workers can manage and treat acute and chronic health problems. Since NPs work at such an advanced tier, they usually have a Master of Science in Nursing. Furthermore, due to the increased exposure to patients and their treatment, a malpractice insurance plan for nurse practitioners is a must.

Nurse Practitioners can specialize in one of several areas, including emergency nursing, family practice, gerontology, neonatology, gynecology, pediatrics, etc. As primary and specialty providers, they perform many of the same job duties as physicians.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists are the people who administer anesthesia to patients before procedures and monitor their status during and after the medical operation. Because anesthesia is such a nuanced and delicate science, CRNAs must have thorough education and certification to enter the medical workforce. We have some tips for you on how to find a job as a nurse anesthetist. 

Knowing the most common types of nurses and what they do can help aspiring medical professionals choose the right career track. Just bear in mind that nurse practitioners need medical malpractice insurance. For more information on coverage, reach out to us at Baxter & Associates today.