By law, the U.S. Virgin Islands Medical Malpractice Trust Fund (“Fund”) must be sustained in order to provide for medical malpractice settlements in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health (“VIDOH”) recently responded to what it called “misinformation” regarding the status of a pending medical malpractice settlement payment, stating that the latest medical malpractice settlement disbursement was finalized and reporting that the Fund “is stable and has been maintained in accordance with the law,” but refusing to disclose the balance of the Fund. The VIDOH reported that the Fund had paid $2,013,040.56 in 2015, through December 21, 2015.
However, a local U.S. Virgin Islands medical malpractice lawyer recently cast doubt on the status of the Fund, alleging that she was advised that the Fund is no longer able to pay damages to victims of medical malpractice due to the Virgin Islands government’s failure to maintain the Fund. The Virgin Islands medical malpractice attorney claims that she was informed by the Virgin Islands Risk Management Office that the Government of the Virgin Islands would only pay the settlement agreement reached in a recent Virgin Islands medical malpractice claim when “funds are made available” and that the Government of the Virgin Islands “cannot commit to paying a settlement in 30 days, 60 days, six months, or in one year or more.”
Who’s Managing The Fund?
The Virgin Islands Code requires that the VIDOH either purchase a group insurance policy to cover medical malpractice claims or use a licensed broker or brokerage firm with expertise in the area of professional medical malpractice insurance to manage the Fund. Nonetheless, according to the Virgin Islands Daily News, no broker or firm works with the Fund and the Fund is being managed by government employees.
No Reports Filed With The NPDB
It has been reported that the National Practitioner Data Bank (“NPDA”) shows no medical malpractice payments were reported in the U.S. Virgin Islands for 2015 (through September 30), and that no medical malpractice payments were reported to the NPBD in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010 (the last reported medical malpractice payments made in the U.S. Virgin Islands were in 2009, when two payments of $22,500 were reported). Since 2010, there was only one other adverse action (a voluntary surrender of a license) reported to the NPDB in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
What is clear is that victims of medical negligence in the U.S. Virgin Islands are at risk of not receiving fair and agreed-upon compensation for their medical malpractice injuries if the Fund is not properly funded as required by law or properly administered as required by law. Moreover, the U.S. Virgin Islands has some of the most draconian medical malpractice laws in all of the United States and it territories: victims of medical malpractice in the U.S. Virgin Islands are limited to $75,000 in noneconomic damages and to $250,000 in compensatory damages in total. 27 V.I.C. Section 166b.
If you or a loved one may have been harmed as a result of medical malpractice in the U.S. Virgin Islands, you should promptly find a U.S. Virgin Islands medical malpractice lawyer who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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