Orthopedic Surgeon Medical Malpractice Insurance

The Doctors Company Insures Orthopedic Surgeons

The Doctors Company (TDC), represented by The Doctors’ Insurance Agency does much more than provide Orthopedic Surgery medical malpractice insurance.  The Doctors’ Insurance Agency, like The Doctors Company also located in Northern California, working hand in hand with TDC develops medical malpractice programs based upon different practice profiles, claims histories, surgery services and trauma, and hospitalist work to develop custom premiums that fit the physician, the group and the facility.

Recently, The Doctors Company completed a renewal of a large Orthopedic groups; blending in rates representative of risks ranging from hospitalist shifts (RVU rating), part time surgical schedules, full time clinic only, no surg; conventional clinical and primary surgery, spine and no spine;…some physicians rated to assist only, Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy, Imaging Center and some Family Practice.

The rates reflect the different practice profiles, hours and services provided.

Medical Malpractice for Orthopedic Surgeons - Designed Coverage for the Specialty

The Doctors Company has been working hard to design coverage and discount premiums for medical malpractice insurance for orthopedic surgeons since the company's origins.   Also called orthopedics, this is a surgical medical specialty that combines compassionate primary care diagnosis and family doctor with serious trauma injuries requiring major surgical skill.

In ‘Wikipedia’ (the current source of many definitions): Orthopedic surgery or orthopedics  is the branch of surgery concerned with conditions involving the musculoskeletal system. Orthopedic surgeons use both surgical and nonsurgical means to treat musculoskeletal trauma, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, infections, tumors and congenital disorders.

According to the data collected by actuarial firms as well as the results of The Doctors Company’s 76,000 physicians, surgical procedures present an increased risk for claims. If you are practicing in states without tort reform and, high wage earning jurisdictions (such as New York or Florida), the claims amounts, the demands and settlements can drive premiums high.  In states where the courts recognize defenses, cost of living demands are not as high in the claim process, tort reforms are solidly in place, the premiums are much lower.

Across the nation, however, due to the varying exposures, procedures and necessary risky surgeries, Orthopedic Surgery medical malpractice insurance premiums are an expensive cost of doing business.

Mentioned earlier in the rating process is Spine Surgery.  There are different Orthopedic medical malpractice insurance risk categories, No surgery, Spinal Surgery, Conventional Primary Surgery that are filed with the States Department of Insurance.

These rates are somewhat consistent with the American Board of Medical Specialties. Further refined by The Doctors Company underwriting team, breaking down the medical malpractice for orthopedic surgeons insurance premiums not only by specialty procedures within the specialty, but further according to county ratings be it in California or other states.

The premium change from full time surgeon to part time office based is gradual as medical malpractice insurance is rated by looking through the retro'scope'.  The procedures that you have done, the services recently rendered are more impactful on the premium than the ones you will be performing in the future....in the near term.  

Orthopedic Surgery Medical Malpractice Risk Management

On average, an orthopedic surgeon is sued about twice in the course of his or her career.  Of 955 claims examined between 2002 and 2011, 55 % are due to ‘improper performance of surgery’; another 18 % are due to improper management of surgical patient; 13 % due to failure to diagnose: with the remainder being attributed to improper management of treatment course and delay in diagnosis.

Though this is the reality of the orthopedic medical malpractice insurance environment, physicians can minimize the occurrence of lawsuits and once the lawsuit has presented, they can mitigate the amount paid  with risk management techniques.  The Doctors Company has the most Risk Managers of any company in this field, specializing in medical malpractice insurance. Our patient safety experts are constantly in the field, on the phone, working in seminars and workshops and classrooms learning in California and nationwide and refining strategies to mitigate risk and loss.  

One of the most important ways for any physician is to reduce medical malpractice insurance risk is to use effective communication. This is particularly true in the case of orthopedic medical malpractice insurance; orthopedists are often seeing patients for the first time and performing surgery on them immediately, while other specialists are given more of a chance to develop relationships with patients. A large body of research shows that patients who sue their doctors often feel that the doctors were impatient and uninterested.

The Doctors Insurance Agency is proud to support the askmethree.com movement to educate physicians and office staff in the important skill of appropriate patient communication. The fact is,  The Doctors Company has proven this over and over again, it has been shown unequivocally that patients who feel that their doctors were sympathetic and compassionate are less likely to sue. Though surgeons have busy schedules, the following patient safety areas and tips can avoid the lawsuit.  It pays dividends to make a few changes in communication with patients; see fewer patients, personally share and explain test results with patients, and treat patients as you would a personal friend or family member. Developing a positive relationship with a patient greatly reduces the likelihood of a lawsuit. Research shows a strong negative correlation between the amount of time spent with patients before surgery and the occurrence of malpractice claims.

In service programs sponsored by TDC's excellent patient safety staff.  Another effective way to limit exposure to risk is to practice thorough documentation. This means keeping a complete record of each case, including the thought processes behind decisions. Having well organized records can often exonerate physicians from blame when there is a lawsuit. Even orthopedic surgeons who practice perfect risk management should expect to be sued at some point in their careers. In the event of a suit, do not talk to anyone about the case, and never try to alter documents or records.

The Doctors Company sponsors patient litigation retreats to teach physicians named in lawsuits to get through the process, how to defend and not incriminate themselves and how to come to terms with the harsh realities of being sued in a medical malpractice claim. 

Common Occurrences of Orthopedic Medical Malpractice Insurance

The difficulties with orthopedic diagnoses can be found in the following areas:

  •  Patients contribute to their own injuries; they are not compliant, do not cooperate with the treatment plan.
  • Patients do not follow up with their medication regimen, they do not purchase required rehab equipment, they do not make it to follow up appointments.
  • Physicians also fail to perform their jobs due to a variety of factors:  wrong site surgery, just plain poor technical performance, or operating in spite of a known contraindication.            
  • Attending physicians or family practice doctors often refer patients to an incorrect specialist to treat the injury or illness.
  • The physician’s patient must establish that there was a duty to the patient, a physician patient relationship existed: 
  • That the duty of care had to have been in some way disappointed, or breached or otherwise compromised.  It is said that there has to be some act or failure to act at this point in the law suit.
  • The orthopedist’s negligence caused injury to the patient.
  • Failure to diagnose in a timely manner is one of the most common claims that medical malpractice insurance carriers defend.

It is common for orthopedic physicians to order inadequate or incorrect tests to diagnose the problem. When trying to diagnose patients, physicians often try to narrow down the list of potential problems by ordering various tests and radiology images to help determine the best medical treatment. Often patients want a quick fix and expect their doctor to have a quick solution.  There is pressure on the Orthopedic Surgeon to provide efficient healthcare, to not run up costs unnecessarily, while at the same time, to practice defensive medicine to not leave anything out.

Doctors may also misread the results of diagnostic tests, resulting in incorrect or damaging treatment. Many Orthopedic Surgeons are reluctant to change course, to make a different diagnosis.  They have the available radiology equipment available in their outpatient offices.  Digital X-Ray and MRI machines are common in the orthopedic medical practice today; but they must be willing to make a different clinical choice based upon continuing variables and information.

 If the image was read incorrectly it is often the orthopedic surgeon who receives the initial blame. Misreads of radiology images are a common risk that results in doctors needing to utilize their medical malpractice insurance.

Orthopedic surgery is a high-risk category, making it critical that physicians practicing in this specialty have a high quality Orthopedic Surgery medical malpractice liability insurance policy in place.

Becoming aware and involved in the risk management process and doing the work reduces claims and lowers premiums for all specialties. Every Orthopedic Surgeon has a vested interest in improving the incidence and outcome of claims.

Orthopedists who are concerned about high liability insurance premiums should become involved in the push for tort reform. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the specialty's leading professional society, maintains a medical liability reform position statement on its website. It recommends reforms to the system including mediation where appropriate, "safe harbor" for physicians who are following guidelines, specialized medical courts, limits on noneconomic damages, and shortened statutes of limitations. These measures would bring down the cost of liability insurance for physicians; orthopedists can advocate for them by lobbying their representatives in state and federal government.

For more information regarding medical malpractice insurance for orthopedic surgeons, contact us or fill out the form to receive customized orthopedic surgeon medical malpractice insurance quote.

 "My name is Jaison James. I am an Orthopaedic Surgeon in Oakland, CA.  I recently had the pleasure of having my Medical Malpractice Insurance underwritten by your company.  The process was extremely fast and efficient!  I had a narrow time window with which I needed to inquire, negotiate, and purchase my policy.  There are 3 key members of your team that deserve significant praise.  Ron, Linda, and Peter all have been outstanding with respect to speed, efficiency, accuracy, and customer service.  They worked together as a team to make sure I made my deadline with almost a week to spare.  This has been an amazingly painless experience, and I have Ron, Linda, and Peter to thank.  As a member of the medical community, I will certainly be referring your company to my colleagues whether the Doctor's Agency is their carrier or not.  I'm not sure how you intend to acknowledge these 3 individuals for their dedication to your company, but as you know, word of mouth is EXTREMELY effective in the medical community.  I look forward to enjoying years of wonderful service from The Doctor's Insurance Agency."   

- Jaison James, M.D. from Oakland, CA


"The Doctors Insurance Agency is our support team. I have had the experience of working with other companies, but no one can compare to the service we receive from The Doctor's Insurance. They are passionate about their work.  That professionalism makes my job easy, and my physicians are comforted by their advice and timely attention to the details.  This year, when our collections followed the pattern of the stock market, The Doctor's Company announced a significant reduction in premium.  They consistently exceed all my expectations year after year. “ 

- Ann Bullis, Roseville Orthopedics from Roseville, CA