Doctors in West Virginia might pay as much as $50,000 to $200,000 per year in medical malpractice insurance premiums, but the rate is not rising. This contrasts with the turn of the century when rates were going up as much as 25 percent. The average jury award was $3 million, and this drove some companies out of the business, leading some doctors to struggle in search of coverage.
One of those companies was St. Paul Cos. In 2001, when it ended malpractice coverage, it was the largest in the business, and over 40,000 physicians were affected. The trend today is for more physicians to work for large practices or hospitals, which help pay some of the malpractice insurance premiums.
A number of changes have contributed to the fact that rates are not rising. One is a shift to holding pharmaceutical companies rather than doctors responsible for the opioid crisis. Another is a reform of medical liability laws. Changing to telehealth and outpatient care along with industry consolidation are also factors. Competition in the industry means that rates are not likely to see much movement for now although the they still usually represent a physician’s largest expense. It is not just medical malpractice premiums that are declining: Medical malpractice suits are historically low.
However, this does not mean that physicians have stopped making errors or that people will no longer file these claims. Medical errors can be devastating to a person’s health whether they are major surgical errors, such as wrong-site surgery or leaving an instrument behind in a patient, errors in medication or some other type of mistake. People have been negatively affected by a medical error or whose loved ones have been may want to talk to an attorney about filing a malpractice suit. In some cases, a medical provider might offer an out-of-court settlement.