What Is Medical Malpractice “Tail” Coverage?

Medical Malpractice | June 10, 2022

A successful medical malpractice case in Kentucky almost always pays out a plaintiff through the medical provider’s insurance company. In some scenarios, however, a health care provider’s insurance policy has lapsed or expired by the time a settlement is reached or a judgment award is granted by the courts. In these cases, it’s important to find out if the provider has “tail” coverage to pay for your losses instead.

What Is Tail Insurance Coverage?

Before you can understand tail coverage, you must learn the basics of insurance payouts for medical negligence and medical malpractice claims in Kentucky. Health care professionals such as doctors, surgeons and chiropractors – as well health care facilities like hospitals and surgical centers – purchase what is known as “claims-made” insurance policies. This type of insurance protects the health care provider from malpractice claims that occur and are reported while the policy is in effect.

Tail coverage for medical providers is liability insurance that extends beyond the typical claims-made coverage. It can cover a claim that is brought when the provider is in between plans or has switched plans. It comes into play when a patient files a claim after the health care practitioner has moved on from the insurance policy that it had when the alleged act of malpractice took place.

For example, if a surgeon had one type of policy when he operated on a patient but another when the patient brought a medical malpractice claim for a retained foreign object two years later, tail coverage would be used to cover this payout. Tail coverage makes it an insurance provider’s obligation to not only pay claims that are received under an effective policy but also claims that are brought months or years afterward, when the previous policy is no longer effective.

Do Health Providers Need Tail Coverage?

Tail insurance coverage is important due to the regularity at which medical malpractice claims are brought long after the cause of action occurs. Many victims don’t discover their injuries or health conditions until later, such as with medical misdiagnoses and birth injuries that take years to show signs. In other cases, a patient may file a medical malpractice lawsuit right away, but it takes a year or longer to result in a payout – at which point the defendant has switched coverage.

Tail coverage is also commonly used because there are many reasons for medical providers to switch insurance companies or end policies. A doctor might switch due to changing medical practices, leaving an independent practice for employment at a hospital, merging two independent practices together, switching employment from one hospital to another or retiring. Tail coverage protects medical providers in all of these scenarios and more.

Will Tail Coverage Apply to Your Medical Malpractice Claim?

If you need to file a medical malpractice claim in Kentucky for an incident that happened more than just a few days or weeks ago, the odds of dealing with tail coverage are high. Whether this will play a part in your lawsuit depends on if the defendant has this type of coverage to begin with, if the act was committed during the original policy period and if you’re filing within the deadline.

Tail coverage will not pay for acts that occur during the period of tail insurance. You must have proof that the act of malpractice occurred during the original policy period. In addition, if tail insurance does pay your medical malpractice settlement or judgment, you may have to contend with a different limit than a claims-made policy. If you find out that the health insurance provider’s coverage has lapsed and it does not have tail insurance, there may be a third option available: “nose” coverage for prior acts. You may also be able to hold the health care provider directly liable, depending on the case.

For more information about medical malpractice tail coverage during a claim in Kentucky, contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Hendy | Johnson | Vaughn | Emery to request a free consultation.

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