2020 Georgia Doctors Buying Guide to Medical Malpractice Insurance

Georgia Medical Professional Liability Insurance Market Summary

Doctors in Georgia have great options for medical malpractice insurance. Top state insurers are:

  • MedPro
  • MagMutual
  • The Doctors Company
  • ProAssurance
  • Aspen American Insurance Co
  • NORCAL

What makes these companies the best in the business for Peach State physicians is their A-rating from A.M. Best, their robust financial strength, and their history of successfully defending Georgian medical professionals. These carriers use proprietary methodologies to set rates and there is no set standard rate across insurers for each specialty.

The medical malpractice insurance market in Georgia is one of the most competitive in the country, with insurance carriers doing whatever they can to secure as much market share as possible.

Medical Malpractice Insurance Requirements for Georgia in 2020

In Georgia, medical professionals are not required to carry malpractice insurance, but many hospitals and healthcare facilities require that they carry malpractice coverage to practice in their facilities.

The standard limits of liability in Georgia are $1,000,000 / $3,000,000, but the amount of insurance coverage needed depends on location and specialty. For example, a surgeon will need more malpractice coverage than a physician who does not perform operations because of the increased risk patients face in the care provided by a surgeon.

Though this lack of a state requirement may inspire physicians to skip carrying malpractice insurance, most doctors in Georgia understand that medical malpractice insurance is worth purchasing.

Medical Malpractice Insurance and COVID-19 in Georgia

In early March, Governor Brian Kemp announced that the state had its first positive COVID-19 patient. By April 2 a statewide shelter in place order was announced and public schools and bars had been ordered to close, but counties and cities were left to decide upon their own localized protective measures.

Positive cases peaked in late July, with the city of Albany experiencing one of the highest densities of COVID-19 infections in the world based on the size of its population. In addition, historically under-resourced medical facilities in rural areas of the state still continued to struggle with the influx of patients created by the pandemic.

Since the state’s reopening in late April, Georgia has the sixth-highest number of confirmed cases in the country, and the tenth-highest count of deaths related to the virus. The highest number of outbreaks are now occurring in schools, long-term care settings, workplaces, and correctional facilities.

Georgia physicians are practicing in uncharted waters when it comes to responding to the influx of patients due to COVID-19. A top-rated malpractice insurance carrier can make sure you have proactive coverage in place.

Telemedicine in Georgia

Telemedicine is crucial to healthcare in rural and underserved areas in Georgia, and the state’s Department of Public Health has one of the most robust telehealth models in the country. Developed in 2003, they offer their own secure, private, HIPAA compliant network with connectivity from any location in any county for use by private practice offices, universities, hospitals, and patients at home. The network can be used for training, evaluations, briefings, and statewide meetings, as well as healthcare.

Additionally, patients can access care at over fifty telemedicine “solutions” around the state, “each equipped with a stethoscope, otoscope, and a general exam camera”.

Their comprehensive, best-practices model allows for an expansive array of service delivery, including nutrition education, dental care, tel-audiology, asthma clinics, monitoring of high-risk pregnancies, mental health, neurology, and much more

Malpractice Insurance Rates for Georgia Doctors

Medical malpractice insurance rates in Georgia are some of the lowest in the country and it is extremely competitive among suppliers. Though a physician’s specific rate will be based on factors like exact location, specialty and claims history, likely his or her rate will be low compared to other states.

State filed rates from 2016

Tort Reform in Georgia

The last major tort-reform bill that made it through the state General Assembly came in 2005, when lawmakers limited noneconomic damages awards, also known as “pain and suffering” awards, to $350,000 per healthcare provider with an overall aggregate limit of $1.05 million. The Georgia Supreme Court struck down the statute on constitutional grounds in 2010.

Since the Court’s 2010 decision, medical liability payouts in Georgia have steadily increased, reaching surprising highs in recent years. Conditions in the state have rapidly deteriorated over the past few years to the point that the state has been labeled a Judicial Hellhole for the first time in 2020 by the American Tort Reform Foundation.

Although tort reform in the Peach State has been credited in the past with decreasing medical malpractice liability premiums, it has not eliminated the need for doctors to carry medical malpractice insurance.

Georgia’s Damage Caps on Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Georgia law has never placed a limit on economic damages recoverable from a medical malpractice claim. Damages recovered by patients include compensation for healthcare costs, rehabilitation, ongoing medical care, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and other economic losses.

However, punitive damages are limited. That includes compensation for the injured patient’s pain and suffering, anxiety, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment, lost companionship, scarring, and similar difficult-to-quantify losses. Georgia law still caps punitive damages in medical malpractice cases at $250,000. In rare cases, if the claimant can show that the medical professional “acted with egregious negligence or intentional malice”, the court has the ability to raise the damage limit.

Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Claims

Generally, the amount of time a person must file a medical malpractice lawsuit in the state is two years.

In some instances, a person may have longer to file his or her claim. Some of these circumstances include:

  • If the person discovers the injury or it did not manifest itself within the two-year period, they have five years to file from the date the malpractice occurred.
  • If a person finds a foreign object left inside them, they have up to one year to file a lawsuit, regardless of how many years have gone by since the surgery.
  • If someone is mentally disabled, the two-year limit does not apply until they recover – although the five-year limit remains in effect.
  • If the injury occurred before the patient was five years old, the statute of limitations only applies once the patient turns five

The statute of limitations for medical malpractice in Georgia can be complex and can vary from case to case. Consulting with experts who understand the ins and outs of this system is an important part of protecting your medical practice.

Tail Insurance in Georgia

If you are a physician with a claims-made policy practicing in Georgia and you DON’T have Prior Acts insurance (also known as Nose Coverage), having a tail insurance policy will make sure you’re protected from malpractice claims if you change jobs. Tail insurance covers the gap between your retroactive date with your former employer to your start date with your new employer. To get the best rates on tail insurance in Georgia, contact a broker before you notify your employer of your resignation.

When and why is tail insurance necessary?

When a doctor leaves an employer, their insurance coverage with that employer ends on the last day of employment. Since most malpractice insurance policies are underwritten on a claims-made basis, you will be exposed to a lawsuit if someone files a claim against you after you leave your employer, without tail coverage. 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 tail malpractice insurance.

Medical Malpractice Insurance Outcomes in Georgia for 2019

TOTAL PAYOUT

The total medical malpractice payout in Georgia for 2019 was $130,596,500.


Closing Remarks

Georgia now ranks 9th in the U.S. for medical malpractice payment severity and the number of paid medical malpractice claims in Georgia has increased by 50 percent since 2016. Additionally, five of Georgia’s top 25 2018 verdicts were for medical malpractice lawsuits – including a $31 million and $18 million case in the same year.

Despite these issues, Georgia remains an excellent state for medical professionals to practice. Medscape identified the state as one of this year’s top 10 highest paying states for physicians, with physicians in Georgia earning $323,000 on average. Jobs are plentiful, and a robust telehealth network helps deliver healthcare to rural areas. Even so, with only 17% of Georgia’s population living in rural areas, most doctors work in urban or suburban areas and enjoy the ease of diverse city living.

If you are a cardiologist in Savannah, an oncologist in Athens, or an OB/GYN in Macon and are looking for medical malpractice insurance, reach out to MEDPLI. We’ll help you obtain coverage from an A-rated carrier wherever you are in Georgia.

MEDPLI offers tail insurance, group coverage, private practice malpractice coverage, and more. See our Products & Services page to find out how we can help you.

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