Even after retirement it’s still possible for you to be sued for malpractice arising from treatment rendered while you were in practice. If you purchased Claims Made insurance coverage (as opposed to Occurrence Coverage), you may need to purchase additional insurance to cover future claims. This coverage is known as an extended reporting endorsement or “tail” coverage.
Your malpractice insurance is most likely a Claims Made policy, the type that covers the cost of legal assistance and payment of medical malpractice settlements for lawsuits that are filed only during the time when you are covered by (and paying for) the policy. “Tail” coverage is medical malpractice insurance coverage for legal actions that may come up after you’ve discontinued a Claims Made medical malpractice insurance policy. If you have the less common Occurrence policy you needn’t worry about the “tail.” The bad news is that tail coverage is expensive –typically two to three times your annual premium. The good news is that many insurers provide “tail” coverage gratis to long standing policy holders upon their retirement. Check with your insurer.
Volunteer Patient Care
As to the need for professional liability insurance for volunteer work, please see this information from the American Medical Association entitled “Licensing Provisions and Liability Laws for Senior and Volunteer Physicians”. Some medical liability insurers offer special insurance packages for volunteer activities.
Malpractice insurance coverage for teaching students or residents as a volunteer may be covered by the hospital’s malpractice plan if there is any direct patient contact. Verify this before taking on this role.
A Word to the Wise
The bottom line is that you should check directly with your current malpractice insurer to assess your specific medical liability needs. You don’t want to have any coverage gaps for which you would be personally liable should a malpractice claim be filed after you retire.
Once a “tail” policy is in place (either purchased or earned via a loyalty program), your coverage is fixed with that insurance company for the rest of your retirement. But if the insurance company becomes insolvent sometime in the future, you will be personally responsible for any claims that arise. It is important to consider the financial security and stability of the insurance carrier before agreeing to purchase their “tail” coverage.