The state of Virginia boasts one of the United States’ most stable medical liability insurance markets due to legislation that passed over 30 years ago.
In the 1970’s Virginia faced a medical malpractice crisis that led to the Virginia General Assembly to pass the Medical Malpractice Act of 1976, which sealed all damages at $750,000. With this new act passed, Virginia malpractice insurance was then offered at a more affordable price to healthcare providers such as dentists.
In 1983, the malpractice ceiling was then increased to $1 million, and was almost raised again in 1999 to $1.5 million with annual increases until 2008 to make it $2 million. The attempt to raise it to $2 million did not pass, and today Virginia is only one out of only seven states to have such a ceiling on the state’s court system.
If a lawsuit does occur Virginia allows for either party to request that a panel made up of attorneys, healthcare providers, and a court judge to decide whether or not the dentist or healthcare provider provided adequate standard of care, and if not, whether it was the cause of any damages. From this, either party can use the ruling as evidence in court.
Having malpractice insurance in Virginia is crucial to any healthcare provider, as it provides them safety from lawsuits, while protecting their business at the same time. According to the Virginia Board of Medicine, they have reported that since 1999, 96% of paid malpractice claims have been less than $1.1 million, and less than 2% of the claims have exceeded $1.5 million. Most of these claims have included: root canals, bridge work, nerve injuries,swallowing of a small object during a dental procedure, loss of permanent teeth, periodontal disease, an adverse reaction to certain medications, pain, cancer, broken and/or fractured teeth or jaw bone and disfigurement of the mouth. In addition to those reasons above, lawsuits can also include issues of, x-rays, assault, sexual harassment and other issues that can involve the dental practice, but not necessarily the dentist.
While usually most dentist and healthcare providers have not been found responsible for damages in most of these cases, in the cases where they have, they failed to read a patients file properly or have been accused of neglect that led to damage of the patient. This is often when dental malpractice insurance is needed to protect the dentist from losing his or her practice, in addition to helping them settle the dispute financially.