February 21, 2013
You know that sinking feeling you get when you realize you were supposed to do something and you missed it? Like: Today it’s my spouse’s turn to pick up the kids. Uh… nope, it was yours. So, who does have the kids? Or remembering — just as you’re walking in the door — that it’s your sweetheart’s birthday, and you've forgotten to get her anything. Oops.
Sometimes we make assumptions that can turn around and bite us! And making assumptions about your dental malpractice policy is another area you can’t afford to be wrong about. Let me give you a few, common examples of when your malpractice policy probably isn’t going to provide you with coverage:
• You work for a governmental entity
It isn’t uncommon for a dentist to do some part-time work outside of their regular practice and occasionally it’ll be for a governmental entity, like a correctional facility for example. This exposure is specifically excluded in our policy and is usually excluded by other carriers as well. Most insurance carriers will not be interested in setting themselves up as a potential deep pocket for a governmental agency, should a claim or suit arise. If you provide services for a health department, county or state hospital, correctional facility or any other government agency, you need to make certain that your malpractice carrier does provide coverage. If they don’t, you should require that you’re provided sufficient coverage through that governmental entity, and make sure you have written confirmation, annually. Your contract should, among other things be specific about the limits of coverage provided; the period of time covered; and should also specify the coverage provided if a claim or suit arises after your contract has ended with that agency, for patient care that was rendered during your contract term.
• You design, manufacture or sell products under your name
Your malpractice policy is not designed to provide coverage if you or someone else is designing, developing, manufacturing, selling or distributing products under your name. You need a Products Liability Policy for this type of exposure. This would not apply for common dental appliances made for specific patients in your practice.
• You are a member, partner, director or shareholder of any partnership, association or corporation
There can be two different scenarios for this example and both of them require different approaches. The first scenario is one we addressed in a previous article (see WSDA News, Issue 8, August 2012) and that is simply if your practice is incorporated, or if you are perceived to be or are practicing as a group with other dentists, you need a Corporate/Partnership Professional Liability Policy. If you have a solo practice but operate under a different name, e.g. “1234 Dental”, add that name to your individual professional liability policy.
The second scenario is if you serve on a Board, whether you volunteer or whether you are compensated for your services, that Board should carry a Directors and Officers Policy. In the event you are sued for decisions that are made as a function of this responsibility, the D & O policy provides coverage.
These are just three examples of exposures that are not typically covered under a dental malpractice policy. Identifying the risk and then properly insuring it under the correct policy is something you can do through a conversation with your carrier.
But this also begs the question, when was the last time you read your malpractice policy? You should be familiar with the exclusions in your policy and if there’s language you’re not familiar with or don’t understand, discuss it with your company’s representative. Don’t wait until you need the coverage to discover you don’t have the correct policy for the exposures you have. You can avoid that sinking feeling by asking the right questions now.
Need more information? Contact Matt French at (206) 441-6824 or 800-282-9342.