Plastic surgeons experience one of the highest rates of medical malpractice lawsuits and need robust insurance protection for their practices.
Plastic surgery is a broad field that encompasses a wide range of care – everything from skin grafts for burn victims to body contouring and reshaping.
Studies show that plastic surgeons are at especially high risk of experiencing a lawsuit, with 13% of plastic surgeons facing malpractice claims annually
The majority of medical malpractice claims against plastic surgeons come from the elective, cosmetic portion of their practice
From 2009 to 2015, the mean plaintiff award in plastic surgery claims was over $1M
Though most lawsuits are eventually settled in favor of the surgeon, even winning cases can rack up exorbitant legal fees and defense costs
Medical Malpractice Insurance Rates for Plastic Surgeons
Rates for plastic surgeons cost more than an average physician policy but less than other specialties like neuro and cardiovascular surgery. Premiums are affected by a variety of factors including types of procedures offered, experience, claims history, and location.
Mature claims-made estimates below are for informational purposes only. Occurrence coverage may be available. To get your personalized rate estimate, please request a quote.
|City||State||Premium Estimate||Limits of Liability|
|Wichita||KS||$30,000 + KS HCSF||$200,000/$600,000|
|Indianapolis||IN||$30,000 + IN PCF||$250,000/$750,000|
|New Orleans||LA||$30,000 + LA PCF||$100,000/$300,000|
|Albuquerque||NM||$35,000 + NM PCF||$200,000/600,000 (Only Occurrence; no Claims-Made coverage)|
|Philadelphia||PA||$55,000 + MCARE||$500,000/$1,500,000|
|Salt Lake City||UT||$40,000||$1,000,000/$3,000,000|
|Milwaukee||WI||$25,000 + PCF||$1,000,000/$3,000,000|
*These states offer limit options
Why Plastic Surgeons Need Medical Malpractice Insurance
No matter how competent the surgeon may be, it is impossible to eliminate the risk of litigation.
One of the main reasons people sue for malpractice can be traced back to a lack of communication. This is especially true for plastic surgeons. Many patients have high expectations of the aesthetic procedures they undergo. Surgeons need to be able to interpret a patient’s desires and communicate whether or not those expectations are realistic.
Typical complaints in plastic surgery malpractice claims include issues that develop post-op, like nerve or aesthetic damage. Plastic surgeons are most commonly sued for problems related to:
Breast surgery (the most commonly performed plastic surgery procedure)
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the best way to mitigate medical malpractice risk is to develop a genuine relationship with the patient that is built on open communication and that agrees upon what a reasonable surgical outcome will look like.
In the event of a lawsuit brought about by a dissatisfied or injured patient, the right medical malpractice insurance will protect you from:
Monetary damages awarded to the plaintiff
Though not all states require surgeons to carry malpractice insurance, many plastic surgeons choose to be insured because of the high risk that they will experience an expensive lawsuit during their career.
How Plastic Surgeons Can Reduce The Risk of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
A study of closed plastic surgery malpractice claims by The Doctors Company found that the three most common complaints against plastic surgeons were improper performance of surgery, improper management of the surgical patient (mostly related to improper management of surgical complications), and improper performance of the treatment or procedure (cases where the patient suffered from nerve damage, scarring, and other forms of disfigurement).
The Doctors Company notes that the allegation of Improper performance of surgery, which resulted in a whopping 49% of claims, “was often made when the outcome of surgery differed from the patient’s expectations” even if the patient’s record indicated they consented to risk of known surgical complication related to their care.
In fact, plastic surgeons cited communication as one of the top three factors that contributed to a patient’s injury, along with technical performance (wrong site, poor technique, etc.) and patient factors (like body characteristics and individuals who were non-compliant with follow up care).
Communication starts at the initial consultation. A significant amount of time should be spent with the patient and/or their family understanding expectations and being clear about whether surgery will reasonably meet the patient’s needs or desires. One practical solution that can be implemented right away with little cost is to provide procedure-specific brochures to patients. A study published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal found that plastic surgeons who gave their patients these types of brochures were significantly less likely to be sued.
While non-compliance may be viewed as a patient factor, malpractice risk mitigation falls heavily on the surgeon. Patients are less likely to comply with follow up care if they receive inadequate information or if they fail to understand instructions, so clear communication is a critical factor post-surgery as well, along with robust follow-up communication policies and documentation of follow up care, referrals, and outcomes.
The same study in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal also found a significant negative correlation between participating in carrier-required medical malpractice courses on how plastic surgeons can avoid litigation and being sued.
Medical Malpractice Insurance Challenges for Plastic Surgeons
“One in five Florida plastic surgeons are uninsured, patients suffer after botched tummy tucks, Brazilian butt lifts and more” screams the tagline of a 2019 article published by USA Today. “Nearly 6,900 doctors in Florida lack malpractice insurance or other coverage, colloquially referred to as “going bare,” they follow up.”…there are many plastic surgeons who do a lot of harm to patients – who either kill them or leave them on death’s door,” one attorney is quoted as saying.
One of the main things plastic surgeons must fight for when it comes to malpractice risk is their reputations, and this article is just one of the many national publications investigating the issue of how plastic surgeons practicing without malpractice insurance have negatively impacted the lives of their patients.
In Florida, doctors must inform patients if they don’t have malpractice insurance, either by telling them or by posting signs in their waiting rooms. Even the best plastic surgeons need to protect themselves from a medical malpractice lawsuit, and carrying a malpractice insurance policy is a sure way for doctors to show their patients that they take necessary precautions.