Is Your Florida Doctor “Going Bare”?

Suing a doctor for medical malpractice in Florida is never easy. And even if you manage to convince a judge or jury that your injuries were caused by a health care provider’s negligence, you may find yourself unable to collect on a damage award. A key reason for this is many Florida doctors do not have medical malpractice insurance—a practice known as “going bare.”

Florida’s Financial Responsibility Requirements

Some states will not allow a doctor to legally practice medicine without carrying malpractice insurance. Florida is not one of those states. Instead, Florida law only requires physicians to “demonstrate financial responsibility” in the event of a successful malpractice claim.

What does “financial responsibility” mean? Generally, the doctor must obtain an irrevocable line of credit from a bank. The bank agrees to pay any successful malpractice claim presented up to a certain amount. This line of credit is “irrevocable” because once granted, the bank cannot unilaterally cancel it.

Florida requires a doctor maintain either malpractice insurance or an irrevocable line of credit in the following amounts:

  • $100,000 per claim or $300,000 per incident for all physicians; or
  • $250,000 per claim or $750,000 per incident for all surgeons who work in an “ambulatory surgical center” or any physician with hospital staff privileges.

When Insurance and Credit Are Not Enough

Keep in mind, the law does not require doctors to carry any more insurance or credit than the amounts stated above. And in many cases, these amounts may not be adequate to fully compensate a victim for their injuries, especially when you factor in the costs of bringing a successful malpractice claim in the first place. It often takes several years and thousands of dollars in legal fees just to get a malpractice case to court in Florida.

And if doctors do not carry sufficient insurance or credit to carry a malpractice verdict, victims may be left holding a worthless judgment. Many doctors simply file for federal bankruptcy protection to get out of paying damages. Other health care providers hide their assets. A 2004 Associated Press report offered the example of one West Palm Beach surgeon who bragged, “On paper, I have nothing,” having re-titled all of his assets in his wife’s name.

Has Your Doctor Given Proper Notice?

Before you seek treatment from a doctor or health care provider, you should always inquire about their insurance status. In fact, you should know whether or not your doctor is “going bare” the minute you step into his or her waiting room. Florida law requires any doctor who chooses to practice without malpractice insurance to post the following sign in their office reception area:

Under Florida law, physicians are generally required to carry medical malpractice insurance or otherwise demonstrate financial responsibility to cover potential claims for medical malpractice. However, certain part-time physicians who meet state requirements are exempt from the financial responsibility law. YOUR DOCTOR MEETS THESE REQUIREMENTS AND HAS DECIDED NOT TO CARRY MEDICAL MALPRACTICE INSURANCE. This notice is provided pursuant to Florida law.

If you have been the victim of a physician’s negligence, it is essential you seek immediate legal assistance. If you need to speak with an experienced Clearwater medical malpractice attorney, contact the Law Office of Paul B. Genet, P.A., at 727-510-8802.

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