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Tennessee Medical Professional Liability Insurance Market Summary

Doctors in Tennessee have several good options for medical liability insurance. The best insurers in the state are:

  • The Doctors Company

  • State Volunteer Mutual Insurance Co

  • ProAssurance Group

  • MedPro Group

  • Coverys Group

  • ISMIE Group

These companies have proven to provide robust financial and legal support for doctors, and all have an A-rating from A.M. Best.

These carriers use proprietary methodologies to set rates and there is no set standard rate across insurers for each specialty. However, Tennessee physicians tend to buy policies with $1,000,000 a claim/$3,000,000 aggregate per year in coverage. Due to tort reform in 2008 and 2011, the medical malpractice insurance market in Tennessee is currently considered moderate and stable.

Medical Malpractice Insurance Requirements for Tennessee in 2021

There is no legal requirement in the state of Tennessee for physicians to carry medical malpractice insurance. Regardless of state law, many Tennessee hospitals and health centers require doctors to carry medical malpractice insurance if they want admitting privileges. Liability limits of $1 million per occurrence or claim and $3 million per annual aggregate are the standard policy amounts. If you practice a high-risk specialty, such as Obstetrics/Gynecology or surgery, you will likely want a policy with higher liability limits.

Good doctors need to protect against the possibility of a medical malpractice lawsuit, and working with an independent broker to secure comprehensive medical malpractice insurance is fundamental to reducing risk in your practice.

Medical Malpractice Insurance and COVID-19 in Tennessee

Tennessee continues to struggle with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of July 2021, approximately 39% of state residents were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, ranking Tennessee the eighth-worst state for vaccinations rates per the CDC via Bloomberg. The Delta variant continues to threaten the unvaccinated, and hospitals across the state continue to follow precautions as they prepare for another surge in cases.

With the symptoms of COVID-19 varying from patient to patient, the risk of misdiagnosis is high. It is recommended that any physician practicing medicine in Tennessee during the COVID-19 pandemic be protected by medical malpractice insurance.

Telemedicine in Tennessee

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Tennessee legislators passed HB 8002 during a special session in August 2020, which requires health insurance companies to cover telemedicine services in the same way as in-person care until April 2022. The Tennessee law echoed legislation passed across the nation in the wake of the pandemic.

Tennessee is a great candidate for telemedicine expansion. 1 in 5 residents live in rural parts of the state, making consistent access to specialty medical care difficult. Telemedicine can make it easier for residents to access the health care services they need. For example, one program, STORC, “brings virtual prenatal care to expectant mothers, helping address rural Tennessee’s high infant mortality rate.”

Still, there are barriers to telemedicine adoption, including healthcare regulations that keep providers from offering telehealth visits and the absence of a framework to support the technology – it’s estimated that 18% of Tennessee households lack broadband internet access, making virtual visits difficult. While these new laws expand access in the short term, Tennessee lags behind other states when it comes to telehealth expansion.

Malpractice Insurance Rates for Tennessee Doctors

Tennessee rates for malpractice insurance are moderate compared to the rest of the country. See below for approximate rates across all territories for limits of $1,000,000 Each Claim/$3,000,000 Aggregate (the most common limits of liability in Tennessee).

Specialty Approximate Rate
Anesthesiology $13,000
Cardiovascular Disease Minor Surgery $14,000
Emergency Medicine $25,000
Family Practice No Surgery $10,000
Gastroenterology No Surgery $14,000
General Surgery $39,000
Obstetrics and Gynecology Major Surgery $50,000
Occupational Medicine $6,000
Ophthalmology No Surgery $7,000
Orthopedic Surgery No Spine $31,000
Pathology No Surgery $10,000
Pediatrics No Surgery $10,000
Psychiatry $7,000
Radiology – Diagnostic $14,000

Tort Reform in Tennessee

The first notable tort reform was passed in 2008, when legislation was passed requiring that providers receive written notice within 60 days of a claim, plus a “certificate of good faith clause”, which backs up the merit of the claim by an expert witness. Shortly after, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011. This new legislation introduced several malpractice-related statutes, setting caps on noneconomic and punitive damages and introducing the state to comparative fault – if there is more than one defendant found to be at fault for damages, the defendants will bear a proportionate share of damages.

As with many states across the country, tort reform in Tennessee is constantly challenged in court. The Tennessee Supreme Court continues to examine cases that question whether caps on non-economic and punitive damages violate the Tennessee constitution.

Tennessee’s Damage Caps on Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Like many states, Tennessee has a cap on non-economic medical malpractice damages, which include factors such as anxiety, depression, pain and suffering, disfigurement, emotional distress, and loss of consortium.  In addition:

  • Non-economic damages are capped at $750,000 per claim

  • The cap for non-economic damages increases to $1 million if the injury is catastrophic (paralysis, wrongful death, etc.)

  • If there is more than one defendant found to be at fault for damages, the defendants bear a proportionate share of damages

  • punitive damages are capped at “an amount not to exceed the greater of twice the total of compensatory damages, or $500,000, whichever is greater”

There are no caps on economic damages in the state. Economic damages include things like past and future medical bills and expenses, funeral expenses, and lost wages.

Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Claims

The following guidelines outline the state’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims:

  • A person in Tennessee has one year after discovery of the injury to file a medical malpractice claim

  • Malpractice claims must be filed within three years of when the incident occurred

  • If the injury involves a foreign object left inside the body or fraud, there is no filing time limit for when the incident occurred

Tail Insurance in Tennessee

Doctors practicing in Tennessee that have a claims-made policy but DON’T have Prior Acts insurance (also known as Nose Coverage) need a tail insurance policy to ensure that they’re protected from malpractice claims when changing jobs. Your exposure period begins with your retroactive date (the first date of employment with your last employer) and ends on the policy cancellation date (your last day seeing patients at that job). If a claim is made after your policy expires, tail malpractice insurance will protect you. Often before you begin a new job, your new employer will want to confirm you have tail coverage from your prior job. To get the best rates on tail insurance in Tennessee, contact a broker before you notify your employer of your resignation.

When and why is tail insurance necessary?

When a physician ends their employment, their insurance coverage with that employer also ends. Because most liability policies are underwritten on a claims-made basis, if a claim is filed against you after you leave your employer and your insurance coverage has already ended, you can be exposed to a lawsuit. Tail insurance covers you from your retroactive date up to the last day the policy is in effect – with the ability to report claims years after the last day. Read more about options for tail insurance.

Medical Malpractice Insurance Outcomes in Tennessee for 2020

The total medical malpractice payout in Tennessee for 2020 was $21,001,550.

Closing Remarks

Tennessee is home to numerous medical centers, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which is ranked as the best hospital in the state and ranks nationally as a leader in seven adult and ten pediatric specialties, and Methodist Hospitals of Memphis, which is nationally ranked in eight pediatric specialties.

WalletHub ranked Tennessee as the ‘6th Best State for Doctors’ in the nation in 2020, scoring well in areas like Average Monthly Starting Salary of Physicians, Projected Physicians per Capita by 2026, and Malpractice Award Payout Amount per Capita. Medscape adds, “Tennessee Physicians are more likely to report being very happy both inside and outside of the clinic than are doctors and most other states. Adjusted for the cost of living the state ranks number three in average physician compensation and malpractice pads are among the lowest in the nation.”

Overall, Tennessee is considered a good state for physicians. A low cost of living, good pay for doctors, tort reform, small towns, progressive communities, and plenty of music and attractions make The Volunteer state an ideal place to practice medicine.

MEDPLI helps doctors from all specialties. Whether you are a neurologist in Nashville, an anesthesiologist in Memphis, or a surgeon in Knoxville, we can help you find medical malpractice insurance. To get coverage from an A-rated carrier, contact us by requesting a quote.