Hawaii Medical Malpractice Insurance Primer

The Basics

  • Total number of primary care physicians as of 2014: 1,764
  • Total number of specialist physicians: 1,881
  • Number of active insurance companies as of 2013: 61

Tort Reform

Hawaii does not have a specific cap on non-economic damage awards in a medical malpractice case. There is a $375,000 cap on awards for pain and suffering in any tort case, medical malpractice or otherwise, however pain and suffering is defined as a subset of non-economic damages under Hawaii law with the result that other types of non-economic damages such as disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, etc. are not subject to the $375,000 cap. Likewise, as in most states, economic and punitive damages are not capped.

In addition to the rather limited caps mentioned above, Hawaii also requires that all malpractice cases be either filed with a review panel or submitted to non-binding arbitration prior to being heard in court. The review panel makes a determination with regard to both negligence and damages, however their decision, like that of the arbitrator, is non-binding and not admissible in court should either party choose to pursue the matter to trial.

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Statute of Limitations

Hawaii has a basic two year statute of limitations with a six year statute of repose. This means that a claimant must bring a case within two years of the alleged malpractice or when the alleged malpractice was discovered (or reasonably should have been discovered assuming due diligence). However, no case may be brought more than six years after the date of the alleged injury, regardless of the date of discovery.

Exceptions to the above are:

  • Minors under ten have up to six years or until their tenth birthday to have a claim filed, whichever is longer.
  • In the case of an injury to a minor that could not have been discovered the statute of limitations is tolled, or paused, until the injury becomes discoverable.
  • In cases of mental incompetence or imprisonment the statute of limitations is tolled until the disability is removed.
  • The statute of limitations is tolled in cases of fraud or concealment on the part of the defendant until the date of discovery of the injury.

Coverage for all medical specialties in Hawaii.

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Summary of the Hawaii Medical Malpractice Insurance Market

Historically Hawaii has tended toward relatively high malpractice insurance premiums; however, in the last few years payouts have decreased somewhat, stabilizing premiums. At the same time the number of competing insurers has grown steadily for about the last ten years. Finally, while not successful yet tort reform measures that would both broaden and lower caps on non-economic damages have been pursued and even passed one branch of the legislature in recent years. It’s likely that similar efforts will be taken up again in the future. At this point the risk environment and thus the financial outlook for medical professional liability insurance in Hawaii appears to be stable at least, with a good possibility of improvement in the near future.