American Academy of Physician Assistants

Malpractice Insurance Basics

sitewide26

Learn the basics of malpractice insurance so you can make an informed choice about your policy.

Types of coverage

There are two types of malpractice insurance — "occurrence" and "claims-made."

Occurrence coverage

Occurrence covers incidents that happen during the policy period regardless of when the claims are reported. Occurrence coverage provides protection for each policy period indefinitely.

Example: You have occurrence insurance from 2008 to 2010. A claim is filed against you in 2013 for perceived negligence in 2008. Because you were insured with an occurrence policy in 2008, you are protected.

Claims-made coverage

With claims-made, an incident must happen and be reported to the insurance company while the policy is in force. Once the policy is terminated, coverage no longer exists.

Example: You have claims-made insurance from 2008 to 2010. A claim is filed against you in 2013 for perceived negligence in 2008. Because you were insured with a claims-made policy in 2008, you are NOT covered.

If you want coverage for claims that are reported after the policy is terminated, then you must purchase an Extended Reporting Endorsement (known as a "tail").

↑ Back to top


Insurance premium

How much you pay for your premium depends on your responsibilities, the location of your practice setting and the limits of liability you choose.

For AAPA's insurance purposes, PA responsibilities are divided into three classifications:

  • Class A: A PA who assists a licensed physician in the diagnostic management of patients
  • Class B: A PA who is involved in any of the following:
    • Assisting in surgery where there is any exposure to an OR (other than for observation) with GP/FP or general surgeon
    • Any exposure to trauma/emergency room procedures or responsibilities thereof (less than 10 hours a week)
    • Obstetrics exposure limited to prenatal or postnatal care
    • Assisting in anesthesiology
     
  • Class C: A PA who is involved in any of the following:
    • Assisting in surgery where there is an exposure to an OR (other than for observation) with orthopedic surgeon, ob/gyn surgeon, cardiovascular surgeon and/or neurosurgeon, thoracic surgeon and/or plastic surgeon
    • Any exposure to trauma/emergency room procedures or responsibilities thereof (more than 10 hours a week)
    • Exposure to obstetrics, including delivery room responsibilities
    • Exposure to cardiac catheterization lab
     

↑ Back to top


Limits of liability

The limits of liability depend on your practice specialty and location. For instance, if you spend the majority of your time assisting a cardiovascular surgeon, you should choose the higher limit of liability.

On the other hand, if you routinely assist in the diagnostic management of patients, your exposure is lower. So, you may only require limits of $100,000/$300,000.

If your geographic location has a high incidence of malpractice claims, you may need to choose higher limits. The limits of liability you purchase from AAPA Insurance Services cannot exceed those of the supervising physician.

↑ Back to top


Legal fees and court costs coverage

If a malpractice claim is filed against you, your AAPA professional liability policy will pay legal fees and court costs in addition to your policy limit, even if you are not liable for the charges brought against you.

To apply for coverage, visit AAPA Insurance Services.

↑ Back to top


If you must be covered under your employer’s insurance

If your employer wants you to be covered under his or her policy, and you can't afford to purchase your own personal policy, ask the employer for a copy of the certificate of insurance to review.  

Questions to ask when reviewing your employer's policy:

  • Is it occurrence or claims-made coverage?
  • If you change employers and are covered under a claims-made policy, will your former employer pay the cost of the tail coverage?
  • Are legal costs included in the limits of liability, or will they be paid in addition to policy limits?
  • Are you listed by name on your employer's policy?
  • Is the policy available in all 50 states?

↑ Back to top