When and why you need medical malpractice insurance in Canada

A single non-profit organization called the Canadian Medical Protection Association (CMPA) helps to defend most doctors, hospitals, and clinics in Canada against medical malpractice lawsuits. Because Canada has a “publicly funded” health system, many medical and health care providers assume they will be covered if a lawsuit it filed against them for medical malpractice. However, many doctors, clinics and medical practitioners fall outside of the highly protected medical liability fund. And may not be covered if sued. One of the largest medical malpractice lawsuits awarded in Canadian history to an adult was a $15 M reward to stroke patient Danielle Boyd, from Hanover, ON.

Who is at risk?

There are many medical professionals and private clinics that provide treatments and surgeries that are not covered by the CMPA. For example, surgeons who provide private cosmetic plastic surgery may fall outside of the CMPA. Other examples are:

  • Private hospitals and clinics, senior care homes, doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, chiropractors, specialty and multidisciplinary clinics and other individual practitioners, or associations of practitioners.

What is a medical malpractice lawsuit?

According to the Dial a Law in BC: All doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other health care providers have a legal duty to provide proper medical care to patients — and to anyone needing emergency medical care. But doctors do not have to accept everyone as a patient. Medical malpractice occurs when a patient suffers an injury due to the negligence of a healthcare provider.

Medical malpractice claims are comprised of:

  • Duty of care
  • Standard of care
  • Foreseeability
  • Causation
  • Substantial damages

Medical malpractice lawsuits usually entitle an injured party to sue for the following types of damages:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Past lost income
  • Future loss of income/loss of earning capacity
  • Healthcare expenses/future care costs.

Not every bad result or mistake means there was negligence on behalf of the doctor or facility. Negligence must be proven. It can include administration errors, breaches of informed consent; medical, surgical, treatment and anesthesia errors; misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis medication prescription errors.

How frequent are medical malpractice lawsuits filed in Canada?

The way our system is set up medical lawsuits are discouraged and are very complex to navigate in Canada. The low number of medical malpractice suits in Canada is tied to physicians and hospital are protected under the medical liability insurance. Also, the CMA spends resources to mitigate risk with a variety of reporting and training programs. The supreme court of Canada has limited damage amounts for pain and suffering. But medical malpractice settlements are on the rise.

According to the The Canadian Medical Association Journal study*, as many as 24,000 people die each year, and approximately 87,000 Canadian patients suffer a medical mistake – documented as an adverse event – each year. But the CMPA only reported 5246 lawsuits were filed between 2002 and 2006, an average of just over 1000 a year.

Still, many injured victims file a suit against physicians and hospitals each year. The Courts adhere to strict guidelines when determining whether a patient’s injury is a result of medical malpractice.

Medical malpractice insurance

Health care negligence and medical mistakes claims can have life-altering consequences for medical providers. The process can take years and may impact the day to day practice of the provider and the law suit costs can be overwhelming. Med mal insurance is a liability policy that will provide financial protection against for medical professionals against real or alleged claims related to allegations of, negligence, misconduct, errors and omissions, and equipment or treatment-related injuries.


Medical Malpractice Insurance PMU Specialty

Canadian Medical Association Journal: Disclosing medical errors to patients: a status report in 2007

Dial a Law BC: Medical Malpractice

The Canadian Adverse Events Study: the incidence of adverse events among hospital patients in Canada


Preventing medical malpractice in mid-20th-century Canada: CMPA and its approach to concerns about varicose vein treatments

Disclosing medical errors to patients: a status report in 2007