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Lack of insurance may not be malpractice

Arizona residents may be interested to learn that in at least one state, a court ruled that a doctor cannot be sued for not carrying malpractice insurance. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that after a doctor improperly placed screws in a patient's foot, it would be the responsibility of the state medical board to discipline him for not being insured and not the court.

A lower court had awarded the man and his wife $750,000 in damages for his surgical error. However, neither that court nor the higher court found that the facility or the doctor were guilty of medical negligence as a result of failing to carry malpractice insurance. According to the high court, previous cases have found that doctors do not have to tell patients if they do not carry malpractice insurance, and facilities are not responsible for ensuring that their doctors are insured. However, according to a law passed in the state in 2004, the state board of medical examiners may order disciplinary action and civil penalties for doctors who do not have either malpractice insurance or a line of credit in the amount of $500,000.

Two judges wrote dissenting opinions. One argued that as an anesthesiologist, the doctor was uninsured for the procedure and that no reasonable patient would have agreed to the procedure with the knowledge of that lack of insurance.

People who believe that they have been harmed as a result of a surgical mistake may wish to consult an attorney. It may be possible to sue the medical facility or professionals involved for malpractice if the patient did not receive the requisite standard of care.

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