In Tennessee the vast, vast majority of physicians have medical malpractice insurance. The medical malpractice insurance company not only hires a lawyer to defend the doctor in the event a medical malpractice (now called health care liability) lawsuit is filed in court but also pays money toward any settlement or judgment in the case. The amount that the company will pay is an amount up to the insurance policy limits actually purchased by the doctor or the company the doctor works for. The company also employs a team of professionals who evaluate claims and supervise the litigation process.
In fact, in over 30 years of representing patients in medical malpractice claims against doctors and other health care providers, I have never come across a single doctor in Tennessee who did not have professional liability insurance. There are states, such as Florida, where there appears to be a significant number of uninsured doctors, but that is not an issue in Tennessee.
One reason for this is that doctors own the largest physician professional liability insurance company in the state and, in essence, sell insurance to themselves. A large number of the doctors who do not work for educational centers (like Vanderbilt) or as employees of hospitals purchase professional liability insurance coverage from this company, State Volunteer Mutual Insurance Company. Insurance rates for doctors are less than they were twenty years ago (after adjusting for inflation).
If a doctor does not have medical malpractice insurance coverage he or she is still responsible for the harm caused as a result of medical malpractice. (Click on the link to read about what must be proved in a medical malpractice case).