California is a Leader in Neurosurgery

California’s world-class neurosurgery programs received high marks in the U.S. News & World Report 2023-24 Best Hospital rankings. Among top 10 for neurology and neurosurgery, UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco, took the #2 spot, followed by Cedars-Sinai/Los Angeles at #5; and UCLA/Los Angeles at #6.

Even the best neurosurgeons should take note that California is also a highly litigious state with approximately 16.9 medical malpractice lawsuits brought for every 100,000 residents (Source: National Practitioner Data Bank). That’s why California neurosurgeons need robust medical malpractice insurance.

As your only trusted broker, MEDPLI will help you find the right coverage at the best rate in California.

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If you are a California neurosurgeon in private practice, or planning to open a new practice in California, use this guide prepared by independent MEDPLI advisors to give you a concise overview of medical malpractice insurance. Then contact a MEDPLI advisor to discuss your coverage needs and get a quote.

Medical Malpractice Insurance Requirements for California Neurosurgeons

California neurosurgeons are not legally required to carry medical malpractice insurance. However, many California hospitals and health centers require physicians and surgeons to carry medical malpractice insurance if they want admitting privileges. The standard limits of liability in California are $1,000,000 Each Claim / $3,000,000 Aggregate per year in coverage.

MEDPLI strongly recommends securing coverage from an A-rated carrier as the most cost-effective way to protect against devastating financial loss if you are sued for malpractice in California. As an independent broker, we specialize in medical malpractice insurance for Neurosurgeons. We can help you find the best coverage at a great price.

Medical malpractice insurance requirements for neurosurgeons in California

Cost of Medical Malpractice Insurance for California Neurosurgeons

Each insurance carrier uses its own proprietary methods of setting the cost of medical malpractice insurance for neurosurgeons. Carriers consider factors such as practice location, surgical specialty, and past claims history.

The following are approximate medical malpractice insurance premium rates for neurosurgeons across all California areas:

 Specialty Approximate Claims Made Rate Approximate Tail Rate Approximate Occurrence Rate
Neurosurgery $60,000 $120,000 $65,000

*Using the CA standard limits of $1,000,000 Each Claim / $3,000,000 Aggregate per year in coverage

Types of Professional Liability Insurance for California Neurosurgeons

Here is a brief overview of the most common types of medical malpractice insurance for neurosurgeons in California:

1. Claims Made Insurance

Claims-made malpractice insurance provides coverage if the policy is in effect both when the incident took place AND when the claim is filed. If a claim is filed after the end of the policy date, the claim is NOT covered. With a claims-made policy you need tail malpractice insurance, which is a separately purchased insurance policy or endorsement, to make sure you have full protection. Learn more about claims-made insurance here.

2. Occurrence Insurance

Occurrence malpractice insurance provides coverage for incidents that occurred during the policy year, regardless of when a claim is reported to the carrier. Occurrence policies are more costly at the start of the policy, but the rate stays the same for the length of the policy, and there is no need for tail coverage when the policy ends. Read more about occurrence insurance.

3. Tail Insurance

Since most malpractice insurance policies are underwritten on a claims-made basis, you will be exposed to a lawsuit if a former patient files a claim against you and you do not secure tail coverage.  When you are preparing to leave your employer, you should seek tail coverage options with an independent broker like MEDPLI.  Tail insurance covers you for a specific time period.  The new employer’s policy is not going to cover you for prior acts of a former practice, hence tail coverage is needed.  Read more about tail malpractice insurance.

Reach out to an experienced MEDPLI advisor who will get to work for you to find a tail policy at a great price.

Let a MEDPLI Broker Help You Choose the Best Policy for Your Practice

Every medical specialist’s situation is unique, so we recommend a conversation with a MEDPLI advisor to the discuss the unique needs of your California neurosurgery practice. Your MEDPLI advisor will explain the benefits and limitations of each type of medical malpractice insurance to ensure you get the right type and amount of coverage for your neurosurgery specialty.

California Medical Malpractice Insurance Carriers

Get Quotes from A-rated Carriers Serving California Neurosurgeons

MEDPLI advisors will obtain quotes from medical malpractice insurance from carriers rated “A” by A.M. Best for their long-term financial solvency and robust legal support of policyholders. Some of the top carriers include:

  • The Doctors Company

  • Medical Protective

  • Coverys Group

  • Lone Star Alliance RRG

  • NORCAL Group (A Part of ProAssurance)

Why Neurosurgeons Are Classified as High Risk by Medical Malpractice Insurance Companies

Medical malpractice insurance underwriters classify neurosurgery as a high-risk because of the potential for patient outcomes with severe permanent injury or death. Statistics published in an article in The Journal of Neurosurgery indicate that nearly 20% of all practicing neurosurgeons in the U.S. are named as defendants in malpractice lawsuits each year.

Top Reasons Why California Neurosurgeons Are Sued

According to a review of neurosurgery medical malpractice claims data by “A” rated malpractice insurance carrier MedPro Group , more than half of the cases cited allegations of patient injuries including pain, nerve damage, mobility loss, and the need for additional surgery related to these specific procedures:

  • Exploration/decompression of the spinal canal

  • Excision of the intervertebral disc

  • Cervical fusion, anterior

  • Lumbar fusion, posterior

In addition, some of the most often cited allegations in California’s neurosurgery medical malpractice cases include:

  • Uncontrolled brain bleeds

  • Irreversible brain damage resulting from surgical error

  • Delayed diagnosis or incorrect diagnosis

  • Delay in performing surgery

  • Failure to inform patient of risks of surgery

Top reasons that neurosurgeons in CA are cited for malpractice

Neurosurgeons can reduce their risk of a malpractice lawsuit by implementing a comprehensive risk management strategy. For tips on fine tuning your risk management strategy, check out our Neurosurgeons’ Guide To Managing Malpractice Risk.

California’s Medical Malpractice Insurance Legislation

Consulting with a MEDPLI advisor who understands the complexities of California’s medical malpractice laws will ensure that your neurosurgery practice is protected with the right amount of coverage.

California’s Damage Caps on Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

The 2023 passing of Assembly Bill 35 (AB35) modified California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) and mandated the state’s first cap adjustments for non-economic medical malpractice damages since 1975:

  • As of January 1, 2023, AB35 raised the previous limit of $250,000 on non-economic damages for non-death cases to $350,000. Incremental increases over the next 10 years will raise the cap to $750,000, followed by a 2% annual adjustment for inflation in subsequent years.
  • The limit for malpractice cases involving wrongful deaths has increased to $500,000 and will rise incrementally to $1 million over the next 10 years. The subsequent 2% annual adjustment for inflation will also apply.
  • Additional mandates in AB35 now allow patients to sue and collect compensation for economic damages from three separate sources – doctors, hospitals, and “separate, unaffiliated” providers such as specialty surgeons in private practice.

In California there is no limit on the amount of compensation a plaintiff can recover for economic damages, such as actual costs of the medical care necessitated by the malpractice, lost income, lost future earning capacity, and any other measurable economic losses attributable to the defendant’s malpractice.

California’s Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Claims

The following are the major guidelines for California’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims:

  • A medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed within three years after the date of injury or one year after the injury is discovered (or should have been discovered), whichever occurs first

  • There is no filing deadline for cases where a foreign object was left in the patient

  • Exceptions to the deadline (for both minors and adults) can be made when the health care provider intentionally acts to defraud the patient or hide a mistake

  • Claims filed by or on behalf of minors under the age of six must be filed “within three years of the occurrence of the malpractice, or prior to the child’s eighth birthday, whichever timeline provides a larger filing window”

  • Claims filed by or on behalf of minors over the age of six must be filed within three years of the date of malpractice

Neurosurgery Medical Malpractice Outcomes in California

With no cap on economic damages, and incremental increases of the cap on non-economic damages over the next 10 years, neurosurgeons in California are more vulnerable to personal financial loss if they do not have robust medical malpractice coverage.

The total medical malpractice payout in California was $184,773,750 in 2022.

The following examples of California medical malpractice lawsuits found in favor of the plaintiff, or paid as a settlement, show the critical need for neurosurgeons to have strong liability coverage:

Total medical malpractice insurance payouts in 2022

Jury Awards $1.5 Million

A female patient was rendered paralyzed after surgery to remove a spinal tumor. She alleged that the neurosurgeon had not informed her of the risk of paralysis before undergoing the surgery. Had he done so, she would not have consented to the surgery.

$8.1 Million Settlement

The lawsuit alleged that the neurosurgeon was negligent in performing spinal surgery on the 71-year-old male patient, resulting in quadriplegia.

How MEDPLI Brokers Help Neurosurgeons Save time and Money on Medical Malpractice Insurance

Working with MEDPLI as your trusted broker takes the guesswork and effort out of trying to get the right coverage at the best rate on your own. We help you save time and money by:

  • Researching your best coverage, rate, and “A” rated carrier options that specifically meet the requirements of your specialty and practice location in California.

  • You fill out one application and we provide multiple quotes.

  • Asking about any policy discounts offered for a new practice, medical association members, or physicians with no previous claims, for example.

  • Researching flexible payment options offered by carriers to best fit the budget for your practice.

  • Reviewing and consulting with you on quotes, payment options, and possible discounts to help you make the best choice of coverage and rate for your needs.

MEDPLI advisors are ready to help you navigate the complexities of California’s MICRA medical malpractice tort reforms and secure the right amount of coverage for your neurosurgery practice. From submitting your application, obtaining the best rates for new policies and renewals from “A” rated carriers, and more, MEDPLI is the only medical malpractice insurance broker you’ll need.