Until recently, most Florida courts had ruled that doctors providing medical services to patients in a hospital had to have at least $250,000 in medical malpractice insurance or other available assets in that amount to pay any medical malpractice judgment against them.
If the physician did not have this minimum insurance coverage or an ability to pay at least $250,000 of the judgment, the hospital granting them privileges would be responsible for paying up to $250,000 in damages to the patient. Most Florida courts had felt that requiring the hospitals to ensure financial protection of their patients by ensuring that doctors granted privileges to practice at the hospitals had minimum levels of malpractice insurance was good public policy.
In a decision announced on May 24, 2007, however, the Florida Supreme Court has overruled these courts and held that the hospitals have no such financial responsibility. While the individual physician is supposed to carry this insurance, if he fails to do so or has no other assets from which to pay the damages in a medical malpractice case, the injured patient may be left with nothing.
In fact, in the case decided by the Florida Supreme Court, the physician practicing at the hospital was from another country, had no malpractice insurance or other significant assets, and left the United States after his trial. His patient ultimately suffered amputation of her right thumb as a result of the doctor’s negligent treatment according to the jury.
From this point forward, patients need to be fully aware that their treating physicians may not have medical malpractice insurance even though it is mandated by state law. Patients need to also fully understand that the hospital is not responsible any longer for ensuring that doctors practicing at the hospital have this coverage.
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