With the rising costs of insurance, most doctors have probably considered the option of going “bare” and using asset protection instead of insurance in order to protect assets from lawsuits. Or, you may already have this strategy in place. Going “bare” means that you, as a physician, elect not to carry medical malpractice insurance in your medical practice. Medical malpractice insurance protects you and/or your practice from medical malpractice lawsuits filed by your patients. While every physician should have an asset protection plan in place, doctors shouldn’t hastily cancel their medical malpractice insurance without understanding their responsibilities under Florida Statute 458.320, which applies to Florida licensed physicians. F.S. 458.320 outlines certain consequences for doctors who lose medical malpractice lawsuits while uninsured by medical malpractice insurance.
F.S. 458.320 states that if a doctor does not have medical malpractice insurance and loses a medical malpractice lawsuit, then that doctor will still have the responsibility to pay the claimant whether or not the assets are protected. Pursuant to this Florida statute, the doctor is required to pay the claimant either $100,000.00 or $250,000.00 if he loses a malpractice lawsuit (assuming that the judgment is over that amount). Specifically, the doctor has to pay the judgment creditor the lesser of the entire amount of the judgment with all accrued interest of either $100,000.00, if the physician is licensed but does not maintain hospital staff privileges, or $250,000.00, if the physician is licensed and maintains hospital staff privileges. Such payment must be made within thirty (30) days from the receipt of notice for payment from the Department of Health. If the doctor refuses to pay the judgment creditor (claimant) or fails to negotiate a payment plan, then the doctor can be sanctioned by the Department of Health. That means, even if a doctor has an iron clad asset protection plan, they may still be required to pay the judgment creditor some award or risk losing their medical license.
The statute also outlines an exception for payment that states that doctors can file an appeal within thirty (30) days of receiving the notice from the Department of Health. The doctor must send the Department of Health a Notice of Appeal prior to the expiration of thirty (30) days in order to postpone the requirement of such payment. Therefore, even if you have received a medical malpractice judgment against you, you still have options so long as you act quickly and contact a knowledgeable attorney timely.
Further, doctors should still implement asset protection planning even though this statute may require payment of claims, regardless. The reason for this is because lawsuits occur everyday and may not have anything to do with your practice of medicine. Having an asset protection plan deters most future potential creditors from suing you for frivolous claims. Every doctor should utilize the benefits of asset protection planning.
Contact the Attorneys of The Noble Law Firm, P.A. to assist you with your litigation and/or asset protection needs.