The Definitive Guide to Liability and Malpractice Insurance Coverage

Discover the essentials of liability and malpractice insurance. Learn coverage types, key differences, and why it's crucial for healthcare professionals.


If you’re wondering about the differences and importance of liability and malpractice insurance, you’re in the right place. Whether you own a healthcare practice or run a business, understanding these types of insurance can protect you from significant financial risks.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Liability insurance: Protects against claims like property damage, personal injury, and advertising injury.
  • Malpractice insurance: Specifically for healthcare professionals, covering negligence or errors in medical treatments.
  • Professional liability insurance: Broader category covering various professions, including legal, engineering, and consulting services.

Why It Matters

Imagine a nurse is accused of neglect causing bed sores in a patient. Malpractice insurance covers the legal costs. Without it, you might pay out of pocket. Similarly, if a physical therapist gives faulty advice that worsens a patient’s condition, malpractice insurance kicks in.

This guide will help you understand both types of insurance, so that you can choose the right coverage for your needs.

Explore our comprehensive guide for more details on protecting your practice and assets. Stay insured, stay secure.

Understanding Liability and Malpractice Insurance

When it comes to protecting healthcare professionals and institutions, understanding the nuances of liability and malpractice insurance is crucial. Let’s break down the key aspects:

Types of Insurance

There are two main types of malpractice insurance:

  • Claims-made: This type of policy responds to claims only if the policy is active both when the incident occurs and when the claim is made. It often includes an extended reporting period, which covers claims reported after the policy has expired.
  • Occurrence-made: This policy covers incidents that occur during the policy period, regardless of when the claim is reported. Even if the policy is canceled, it will still cover claims for incidents that happened during the coverage period.

Professional Liability

Professional liability insurance, often called “errors and omissions” insurance, is designed to protect professionals across various fields from claims of negligence or inadequate work. While malpractice insurance is a type of professional liability insurance specific to healthcare, professional liability can apply to many professions, including lawyers, accountants, and consultants.

Example: A lawyer might have professional liability insurance to cover claims of malpractice if they miss a critical deadline in a client’s case, leading to a negative outcome.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice insurance is a specialized form of professional liability insurance tailored for healthcare providers. It covers claims arising from alleged negligence or errors in providing medical services that result in harm to patients.

Case Study: According to the NAIC, the medical professional liability insurance market has seen fluctuations, especially during the late 1990s crisis, marked by volatile premium changes and increasing loss ratios. For instance, in 2020, the direct loss and defense and cost containment (DCC) ratio was 78.26%, which decreased to 74.23% in 2021.

Claims-Made vs. Occurrence-Made Policies

Understanding the difference between claims-made and occurrence-made policies is essential for choosing the right coverage:

  • Claims-Made Policies: These are more common today. They require the policy to be active when the incident occurs and when the claim is made. This means healthcare professionals must maintain continuous coverage.

Example: A surgeon who performed a procedure in 2021 but faces a lawsuit in 2023 needs an active claims-made policy in both years to be covered.

  • Occurrence-Made Policies: These cover incidents that happen during the policy period, regardless of when the claim is filed. This type was more popular in the past but is less common now.

Example: A nurse with an occurrence-made policy that was active in 2019 would still be covered for a claim made in 2022 for an incident that occurred in 2019.

Statistics and Trends

The medical professional liability insurance market has experienced significant shifts. The NAIC’s 2004 report highlighted a steady upward trend in combined and loss ratios since 1994, which began to decline in 2002. Moreover, direct premiums written and earned increased in 2021 compared to 2020, reflecting the market’s dynamic nature.

By understanding these types of insurance and their specific applications, healthcare professionals can better protect themselves and their practices from the financial risks associated with negligence claims.

Next, we’ll delve into the key differences between liability and malpractice insurance to help you make informed decisions about your coverage needs.

Key Differences Between Liability and Malpractice Insurance

Understanding the distinctions between general liability insurance and malpractice insurance is crucial for healthcare professionals and institutions. Here’s a breakdown of the key differences:

General Liability Insurance

General liability insurance provides broad coverage for various risks that businesses face daily. It typically covers:

  • Personal injury: This includes injuries that occur on your premises or as a result of your business operations. For example, if a patient slips and falls in your clinic, general liability insurance can help cover the medical expenses and legal fees.
  • Property damage: If your business accidentally damages someone else’s property, this insurance can cover the repair or replacement costs. For instance, if a nurse accidentally spills a liquid that damages a patient’s personal belongings, the insurance would cover the costs.
  • Advertising injuries: This includes claims of slander, libel, or copyright infringement that result from your business’s advertising activities.

Malpractice Insurance

Malpractice insurance, a type of professional liability insurance, is specifically designed for healthcare professionals. It covers claims related to:

  • Medical negligence: This involves errors or omissions in providing medical care that result in harm to a patient. For example, if a physical therapist provides faulty advice that worsens a patient’s condition, malpractice insurance covers the legal defense and any settlements or judgments.
  • Professional Medical and Hospital Liability Program: This program specifically addresses the unique risks faced by medical professionals and institutions, offering coverage for claims related to patient care.

Real-World Examples

Nurses and Negligence: A nurse might face a lawsuit if a patient develops bed sores due to neglect. Malpractice insurance can cover the legal defense costs, ensuring the nurse doesn’t have to pay out of pocket.

Radiology Lab Delays: Even if a claim is frivolous, such as a patient holding a radiology lab responsible for a delay in paperwork, professional liability insurance can help cover the legal costs, allowing the lab to continue operating without financial strain.

Why Both Insurances Matter

While general liability insurance covers broader risks like personal injury and property damage, malpractice insurance is essential for addressing the specific risks associated with medical negligence. Healthcare professionals and institutions need both types of coverage to fully protect themselves from various claims and financial risks.

By understanding these key differences, you can make informed decisions about the coverage you need to safeguard your practice and career.

Medical liability insurance

Next, we’ll explore the importance of malpractice insurance for healthcare professionals and how it can protect you from legal claims and financial losses.

The Importance of Malpractice Insurance for Healthcare Professionals


Malpractice insurance, also known as professional liability insurance, is crucial for healthcare professionals. This type of insurance provides financial protection against legal claims of negligence, mistakes, or omissions made during the course of providing medical care. Malpractice insurance covers various costs, including legal defense fees, settlements, and court-ordered judgments.


Physicians are at high risk of facing malpractice claims. For example, a doctor might be sued for an alleged misdiagnosis that leads to worsening of a patient’s condition. Without malpractice insurance, the financial burden of legal defense and potential settlements could be devastating. According to Advanced Professional Services, malpractice insurance ensures doctors can continue their practice without the fear of financial ruin.


Nurses, including registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs), are also highly susceptible to claims of negligence. For instance, a patient might claim that a nurse’s neglect caused bed sores. If the patient files a lawsuit, professional liability insurance can cover legal expenses, such as the cost of hiring an attorney. This coverage is often not included in employer liability protection plans, making personal malpractice insurance essential.

Physical Therapists

Physical therapists can also face legal claims if their advice or treatment worsens a patient’s condition. For example, if a patient sues for receiving faulty advice that exacerbates an injury, the costs of legal defense and potential settlements could be significant. Malpractice insurance helps cover these expenses, protecting the therapist’s personal assets.

Legal Claims

Legal claims against healthcare professionals can be financially draining and emotionally taxing. Even if a claim is frivolous, the costs of legal defense can be substantial. Malpractice insurance provides the necessary financial support to cover these costs, ensuring that healthcare professionals can focus on their practice rather than worrying about potential lawsuits.


Negligence claims are common in the healthcare industry. For example, a patient might hold a radiology lab responsible for a delay in paperwork, even if it was beyond the lab’s control. Professional liability insurance helps pay for legal costs so healthcare professionals can continue practicing despite a lawsuit.

Patient Injury

Patient injury claims can be particularly severe. If a healthcare professional is found negligent, the resulting financial liabilities can be overwhelming. Malpractice insurance covers the costs associated with these claims, including settlements and court-ordered judgments.


In the most severe cases, malpractice claims can arise from patient deaths. These claims often result in high settlement amounts and legal fees. Malpractice insurance provides the necessary financial protection to cover these costs, ensuring that healthcare professionals are not personally liable for these significant expenses.

Healthcare Professional

Understanding the importance of malpractice insurance for healthcare professionals is essential for protecting your practice and career. Next, we’ll explore how liability insurance protects healthcare institutions from financial risks and patient claims.

How Liability Insurance Protects Healthcare Institutions

Liability insurance is a crucial safeguard for healthcare institutions, shielding them from a variety of financial risks associated with patient claims and negligence consequences. Here’s how it works:

Financial Risks

Healthcare institutions face numerous financial risks daily. Legal expenses from lawsuits can be astronomical, often leading to severe financial strain. Liability insurance helps cover these costs, ensuring that institutions can manage their budgets effectively without the threat of bankruptcy due to unexpected legal battles.

Physician Protection

Physicians are at the forefront of patient care and, consequently, are often the targets of lawsuits. Liability insurance not only protects the institution but also extends to cover individual physicians. This coverage can include legal defense costs, court-ordered judgments, and settlements. For example, if a radiologist is sued for a delay in paperwork, liability insurance ensures that their legal defense is funded, allowing them to continue their practice without financial ruin.

Patient Claims

Patient claims can range from minor grievances to serious allegations of medical negligence. Whether it’s a nurse accused of neglect causing bed sores or a physical therapist whose advice worsens a patient’s condition, liability insurance helps healthcare institutions manage these claims. It covers legal fees, settlements, and other related costs, ensuring that the institution can continue operating smoothly.

Negligence Consequences

Negligence claims can be particularly damaging, both financially and reputationally. Even in cases where the claim is frivolous, the legal costs can be significant. For example, a healthcare provider might be held responsible for a perceived delay in treatment, even if it was beyond their control. Liability insurance helps absorb these costs, providing a financial buffer that protects the institution’s assets and reputation.

Healthcare Institution

For healthcare institutions, liability insurance is not just a financial safety net but also a critical component of their risk management strategy. It ensures that the institution can withstand and recover from lawsuits, maintain its operations, and protect its staff and patients. By covering a wide range of potential legal issues, from patient injuries to privacy violations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), liability insurance provides comprehensive protection that is essential for the stability and longevity of healthcare institutions.

Understanding how liability insurance protects healthcare institutions underscores its importance in the healthcare industry. In the next section, we’ll delve into choosing the right coverage for your needs.

Choosing the Right Coverage for Your Needs

Selecting the right liability and malpractice insurance coverage involves understanding various options and what they protect. Here’s a breakdown of key coverage elements you should consider:


We partner with Berxi, part of Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance, to offer affordable and comprehensive medical malpractice insurance coverage. Berxi provides same-day coverage, 24/7 online access, and a specialized team to assist healthcare professionals in securing the protection they need. You can get a fast and free quote from Berxi to find the right coverage.

Coverage Limits

Coverage limits are essential in understanding how much protection your policy offers. For example, a typical policy might have limits like $1 million per claim and $3 million per policy year. This means the policy will cover up to $1 million for each claim and up to $3 million for all claims within a year.

Legal Defense

Legal defense costs can be significant. Medical malpractice insurance typically includes coverage for defense counsel to represent you in court. This is crucial as legal fees can quickly add up, even if the claim against you is unfounded.

Worldwide Coverage

For healthcare professionals who travel or provide services internationally, worldwide coverage ensures that your policy protects you regardless of where you are practicing. This can be particularly important for those involved in global health initiatives or international medical missions.

Good Samaritan Coverage

Good Samaritan coverage protects you when you provide emergency medical assistance outside of your regular practice. This ensures that you are covered even when helping in unexpected situations, such as roadside emergencies.

Sexual Misconduct/Abuse

Policies may include coverage for claims of sexual misconduct or abuse. While these are rare, having protection against such allegations is crucial. This coverage helps manage legal defense costs and any settlements or judgments.

Information Privacy

With increasing concerns about data breaches, information privacy coverage is vital. This coverage protects you against claims related to the mishandling or unauthorized access to patient information, ensuring compliance with regulations like HIPAA.

License Protection

License protection covers legal costs associated with defending your professional license against disciplinary actions or investigations. This can be crucial in maintaining your ability to practice.

Defendant Expense Benefit

A defendant expense benefit provides additional funds to cover expenses incurred while you defend yourself in a lawsuit. This can include travel, accommodation, and other related costs.

Deposition Representation

Deposition representation ensures you have legal support during depositions, which are sworn out-of-court testimonies used in the discovery phase of a lawsuit. Proper representation can significantly impact the outcome of a case.

Reputation Coverage

Reputation coverage helps manage the fallout from negative publicity following a claim. This can include public relations efforts to repair your professional reputation, which is essential for maintaining trust with patients and colleagues.

Choosing the right liability and malpractice insurance coverage involves considering these various elements to ensure comprehensive protection. In the next section, we’ll address some frequently asked questions about liability and malpractice insurance.

Frequently Asked Questions about Liability and Malpractice Insurance

What are the two types of malpractice insurance?

Malpractice insurance comes in two main types: claims-made and occurrence-made policies.

  • Claims-made policies cover incidents only if both the event and the claim happen while the policy is active. If your policy ends and a claim is filed afterward, you won’t be covered unless you have tail coverage.

  • Occurrence-made policies cover incidents that happened during the policy period, even if the claim is filed after the policy has expired. This type is often more expensive but offers broader protection.

Choosing between these types depends on your specific needs and risk tolerance.

Is malpractice the same as general liability?

No, malpractice insurance and general liability insurance are not the same, although both are crucial for healthcare professionals.

  • Malpractice insurance (or professional liability insurance) specifically covers claims of negligence, errors, or omissions in providing professional services. For healthcare professionals, this includes medical errors that result in patient harm.

  • General liability insurance covers a broader range of incidents, such as personal injury, property damage, and advertising injury that occur on your business premises or as a result of your operations.

For example, if a patient slips and falls in your clinic, general liability insurance would cover the injury. However, if a patient claims that a surgical error caused them harm, malpractice insurance would handle that claim.

What is the purpose of malpractice insurance?

The primary purpose of malpractice insurance is to protect healthcare professionals from the financial and reputational damage that can result from claims of negligence or errors in their professional services.

Here are some key benefits:

  • Financial Protection: Covers legal defense costs, settlements, and judgments, which can be substantial.
  • Reputation Management: Includes coverage for public relations efforts to manage and repair your professional reputation after a claim.
  • Peace of Mind: Allows healthcare professionals to practice without the constant fear of litigation, knowing they are protected.

Malpractice insurance ensures that you can continue your practice with confidence and security, even in the face of legal challenges.


At Griffith & Harris Insurance Services, we understand the complexities and critical importance of liability and malpractice insurance for healthcare professionals. Our goal is to provide you with the peace of mind that comes from knowing you are protected against the financial and reputational risks associated with legal claims.

For over 75 years, we have been committed to serving our clients with integrity and personalized service. Our team of experienced agents works closely with you to tailor insurance programs that address your unique needs, ensuring that every element of risk and exposure is covered long before a claim ever occurs.

Why Choose Griffith & Harris?

  • Expertise: Our agents are industry veterans with over a decade of experience each. We leverage this expertise to offer you the best advice and coverage options.
  • Personalized Service: We believe in building strong relationships with our clients. Our “Personal Risk Management Planning” (PRMP) process ensures that we understand your specific needs and provide customized solutions.
  • Comprehensive Coverage: From financial protection to reputation management, our policies are designed to cover all aspects of liability and malpractice insurance, so you can focus on providing excellent care to your patients.

We invite you to explore our medical practice insurance options and see how we can help you safeguard your practice. Let us take care of you, so you can take care of your patients with confidence and security.

For more information or to get a quote, contact us today. We are here to help you navigate the complexities of liability and malpractice insurance with ease and expertise.

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