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Who Actually Pays a Medical Malpractice Settlement?

On Behalf of | Jun 22, 2016 | Medical Malpractice |

Most people trust doctors and other healthcare professionals to help make them healthier. However, when doctors are negligent or make mistakes, they could potentially harm a patient or make an existing condition much worse. If that happens, you may want to file a medical malpractice suit against the doctor who harmed you. You have probably seen headlines at some point announcing medical malpractice lawsuits that have settled for millions of dollars. However, you may not know exactly who pays a medical malpractice settlement – and how it could limit the amount of money you actually get.

Most doctors make a pretty good salary, but that doesn’t mean that they have millions of dollars at their disposal to pay a settlement in case of a medical malpractice case. Instead, medical malpractice lawsuits work like any injury case, which means that insurance companies end up paying the damages. Doctors generally have medical malpractice insurance to protect them in case of a lawsuit, which is both good and bad news for patients.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Medical Malpractice Insurance in Georgia

If a doctor has medical malpractice insurance, that means you are guaranteed to receive at least some money if your injury lawsuit reaches a verdict or settlement. However, there is no law in Georgia that requires doctors and other medical professionals to have insurance (except acupuncturists, oddly enough). Large hospitals and medical facilities may require their associates to be insured, but family doctors and other specialists may choose not to invest in medical malpractice protection. In that case, you can still file a lawsuit for any injuries a doctor caused you, but you may not be able to collect much – or any – in damages because the doctor will be responsible for paying it him or herself.

Even if the doctor or nurse who caused your injuries is insured, the amount you can recover will depend on the limits of their insurance policy. If the policy only covers up to $1 million in damages, for example, but you reach a settlement for $3 million, the insurance company will not pay that whole figure. Instead, you will get $1 million from the insurance company, and the doctor will be responsible for paying the remaining $2 million, which presents the same problem as a case against someone who is uninsured.

Additionally, medical malpractice insurance is a little more complicated than regular car or house insurance. In order to reach a settlement in your case and avoid a trial, the doctor has to agree to your settlement terms. If he or she does not believe a mistake was made and will not approve the settlement, you will have no choice but to go to trial. Still, if you win a jury verdict, it is the insurance company that will pay. In either case, a medical malpractice attorney is crucial to protecting your best interests.