As featured in the South Florida Hospital News and Healthcare Report, March 2018
By Daniel Casciato
One of the biggest medical malpractice changes South Florida healthcare providers need to be mindful of this year is last year’s decision by the Florida Supreme Court to strike down malpractice damage caps. In June 2017, the high court ruled that the law limiting pain-and-suffering damages in medical malpractice cases is unconstitutional.
- Review your insurance coverage and determine if your insurer is financially secure enough to last through some years of deteriorating financial results. Gracey predicts many of the A.M. Best unrated insurers and small risk retention groups (RRGs) will fail in the next five years or be forced to sell to the larger insurers. For those insured with captives and assessable RRGs, he recommends to consider switching coverage to the more financially stable carriers.
- Consider increasing your policy limits of liability since there are now no limits on non-economic damages that can be awarded in Florida.
- Get serious about risk management—it works. Many insurers offer for free very comprehensive in-office assessments and a wide array of best practice recommendations, as well as astute articles on cutting edge ways to reduce your risk of being sued.
- Polish your communication skills. Poor skills lead to unhappy patients and lawsuits. Remember that patients do not care how much you know until they know how much you care, as Sir William Osler so wisely said.
- Review and update your asset protection now, not after you have been sued.
Danna-Gracey has had great success as a specialist in the medical malpractice arena by simply giving doctors good advice such as the points above.
“Doctors are much smarter than we are,” says Gracey. “But we have more knowledge about malpractice insurance policies and other coverages that they carry. We have the information that they don’t have. As a firm, we try to give them as much information as we can about our knowledge of coverage so they can make much better decisions than if they had no knowledge.”
One misconception that Gracey often sees is that providers believe that all medical malpractice insurance companies and agencies are alike and that it doesn’t matter who you purchase coverage from.
\They think that it’s just an insurance policy and all insurers are basically the same. This couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Gracey. “During good times for doctors’ malpractice insurance like we had for the last 10-12 years, providers have been able to be insured with very small and fragile insurers with less risk. Now that the market is changing this will not be the case.”
Another misconception is that many providers believe that all insurance companies handle claims the same way. Many carriers, particularly the smaller ones, are not as financially sound and settle all or the vast majority of their cases. They will even settle the defensible ones because they don’t want to spend money on the legal fees.
“Doctors don’t get good advice and never look behind the marketing of some of these insurers to see what happens when they have a claim,” says Gracey. “It can go very differently depending who you have a claim with. Some physicians also think they need to consent to a settlement.”
Some carriers give their insurers a right to consent to any settlement 100 percent of the time; some give partial consent; and some give no ability to consent at all. In this case, the insurance company holds all of the power to consent to settle any claims against their insured doctors.
“There is a vast difference and most fail to ask that question, which is why they need to ask good questions,” notes Gracey.
That’s why Danna-Gracey works closely with their clients to identify insurance needs specific to their medical specialties and practices. Their personalized client attention, complete independence so their loyalty is with their clients and their command of the insurance marketplace enable them to effectively negotiate competitive rates and coverage – even with the top carriers.
“Doctors are knowledge based people and they deserve to make good decisions by having all the information or by finding a specialist that they can trust,” says Gracey.