INSURANCE BASICS: DENTAL PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY
We all know that paying the annual premium for your malpractice policy is expensive and required, but how come? What makes dental professional liability so important? Dental professional liability insurance also known as malpractice insurance protects yourself as a doctor of dentistry and other licensed health care professionals from liability associated with wrongful practices. Your malpractice policy covers the cost of any wrongful practice that results in bodily injury, medical expenses and property damage, as well as the cost of defending lawsuits related to such claims. Your policy would also cover if a patient files a claim against for you a personal injury such as their mental anguish, pain and suffering. In the event of a malpractice lawsuit your malpractice policy will protect you from financial loss. Dental malpractice settlements and judgements can be for hundreds of thousands of dollars. For most people, recovering from a financial blow of this magnitude without insurance would be devastating.
I often get asked why an insurance application for malpractice is so much lengthier and cumbersome than receiving a quote for other required policies like Workers Compensation or General Liability. This is because there is greater cost and likelihood of a patient filing a dental lawsuit claim than an employee getting injured or a patient tripping in your office. Think of it this way – the insurance company needs to understand the scope and depth of your work so they can evaluate your level of risk. A great insurance company needs to do their own due diligence for who they take on to ensure their own financial solvency. They will want to know your dental background and training, procedures performed in the office, sedation practices, etc., As you can imagine, oral surgeons are the most likely in the dental profession to have claims filed against them because they tend to perform more complicated procedures and frequently use anesthesia. However, orthodontists and general practitioners are also at a high risk for claims.
There are two types of malpractice policies – do you know which one you have and do you know the difference? The first is a claims made policy and the other is an occurrence policy. On a claims made policy you will see a retroactive date. Retroactive date establishes the first date of coverage and any claims made against you for treatments must take place after this retroactive date. As long as you continuously renew your claims made policy, without any time gaps, you may report claims for incidents that occurred in previous years as far back as the retroactive date. An example for claims made is you became a policyholder in 2015, and have renewed your policy continuously. Now in 2018 a patient files a malpractice claim against you for a 2016 incident, you are still protected.
The second type is an occurrence policy which protects you against incidents that occur while the policy is in force, regardless of when the claim is reported. For example you became a policyholder in 1980 and discontinued the policy in 2013 when you retired. Now in 2018 a patient you treated in 2013 files a claim against you. Because the patient was treated while you had the occurrence policy, you are still protected. Occurrence policies can often give retiring doctors peace of mind that any former patient who files a claim against them will receive protection since they had the policy in force while they were active in the business. Retiring doctors can receive peace of mind with a claims made policy also but it is important for them to understand the “tail coverage” offered. Meaning – how many years of coverage will follow you after you retire for patients you are no longer treating? This is a worthwhile discussion to have with your insurance advisor to identify how long the tail coverage is offered if you have a claims made policy.
Depending on your practice in addition to your dental professional liability coverage you may need to add other insurance coverages. Other line of coverages may include but are not limited to General Liability, Property Coverage, Workers Compensation, Cyber/Data Breach, Auto if employees are driving practice related errands, and Employment Practices Liability. Employment Practices Liability covers Human Resources related claims such as wrongful termination, harassment of any type, and discrimination. In conclusion, it is very important to identify the best insurance for your practice and to know who to go to for trusted insurance advice and representation. Find an insurance advisor that can help you compare policies by looking at them from both a cost and coverage perspective.
Caroline Epps is co-founder and President of Dentists Integrated Insurance Solution (Dentists Insure). Caroline is an insurance advisor for all Property & Casualty related products and believes that dental professionals need an insurance advisor on their side to help them vet costs and coverage, manage any claims and provide assistance. Dentists Insure believes it is valuable to provide that one on one client relationship that cannot be equated with other do it yourself insurance products that do not provide an insurance agent relationship.
Dentists Integrated Insurance Solutions
4660 La Jolla Village Drive Suite 500
San Diego, CA 92122
Work: 888-862-0322 x700
CA Insurance Lic. #0I70472
Caroline Epps is licensed with Pipeline Insurance CA #OC48666 and
A Professional Insurance Associates Affiliate