Avoiding Malpractice Tips

A Word of Warning

Jun 1, 2024 | Avoiding Malpractice Tips

A Word of Warning

First, we want to recognize the behavioral health and social work professions as genuinely noble, founded on service, integrity, and clinical expertise. The profession can often be stressful and very dangerous. The nation is grateful for what you do—AND SO ARE WE! Thank you!

A saying written by Mark Twain (pen name for Samuel Clemens) that says:

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Here is a simple question about your liability insurance. Do you think you are insured when heading over the waterfall into bankruptcy and do not know it?

Here’s what you need to do now.  Do some “what if” analysis. Assume someone has filed a sexual misconduct lawsuit against you. There will be allegations against you for actions you, your employee, or your contractor did.  These allegations will be direct and related, such as negligence, malpractice, and several other claims in the lawsuit. Read your Professional Liability policy, and you will see that you will not be covered if it is not a Preferra policy. Yikes!!!!! Over the waterfall, you go!

Assume the spouse of a divorcing couple you worked with has hit you with a malpractice and negligence lawsuit.  Undoubtedly, there is an exclusion for that in your Professional Liability policy if it is not a Preferra Professional Liability policy. So, only Preferra protects you for claims arising from a divorce. Yikes!!!!! Over the waterfall, you go!

Many Professional Liability policy insurance carriers exclude and omit coverages you assume are in your policy. (Ignorance is bliss.) Some carriers allow a simple “check the box” to add General and Cyber Liability to your Professional Liability policy. BEWARE!

A low-priced premium for add-on coverage with no underwriting involved means you are not fully covered. These are not actual coverages like a stand-alone General Liability policy or a stand-alone Cyber Liability policy. For example, all carriers, except for Preferra, limit fire and water liability, have General Liability coverage of $250,000, and only one claim is allowed annually.

Preferra’s General Liability policy has, at minimum, a $1,000,000 per occurrence limit at no additional cost and an unlimited number of General Liability claims per year.  Only Preferra’s General Liability policy covers you outside of the office.

All carriers except Preferra exclude sexual misconduct or limit it and related allegations to $25,000. Most carriers void coverage, even up to their $25,000 sexual misconduct sublimit, once an admitted act has surfaced.

NOT PREFERRA. Preferra covers you and your employees and contractors for sexual misconduct, including allegations related to sexual misconduct, up the per occurrence limit of the Professional Liability Policy with a minimum of $1,000,000.

No other carriers come close to matching that! We have found that Insureds who are ethical and follow the code of conduct still get sued for sexual misconduct because their contractors and employees have committed sexual misconduct–this is called vicarious liability. Preferra covers you for these perils; no other insurance carriers cover you. Yikes!!!!! Over the waterfall, you go! Not having this coverage could bankrupt you!

Have you provided professional services to a married couple involved in a divorce? Child custody battles are commonplace, and the social worker gets caught in the fight. At a minimum, people file Licensing Board complaints against you and often file lawsuits against you. Preferra is the only insurance carrier that covers your legal defense and indemnity for a divorce-related lawsuit, and it includes this coverage in the Preferra Professional Liability policy at no extra charge.

Do you bring your dog to the office or on walks while providing therapy?  Preferra’s General Liability policy covers dog bites at no extra charge in your Preferra General Liability policy. Preferra’s Professional Liability policy also covers dog bites. No other insurance carriers’ Professional and General Liability policies cover dog bites. Only Preferra’s Professional and General Liability policies cover you outside the office for other claims. Coverage portability is a critical differential advantage of Preferra.

Insurance carriers know how to avoid paying large claims, so they exclude the expensive perils like sexual misconduct, vicarious liability, divorce-related claims, dog bites, and remote therapy outside of the office, and they limit fire and water liability damage. These claim categories are not frequent, but they are extremely severe–so exceedingly severe their liability policies will not cover you and could bankrupt you!

Professional Liability insurance policies are typically up to 30 pages long, and many have 20 additional pages with amendments and exclusions.  You really must scour your policy language to assess your actual coverage. The same holds for General Liability and Cyber Liability policies.

Know your risks and understand what your coverage includes.

One final note: many insurance carriers and insurance agency administrators make you pay them a “Policy Fee” or an “Administrative Fee” as high as $25.  Some try to buffer that greed by giving you a $6 online discount.  Don’t fall for the greed of paying a $20 or $25 policy fee. Preferra does not charge any policy or administrative fees because Preferra views this greed as unethical.

Avoiding Malpractice Tips

Monthly advice and information to help you manage risk. See list of past articles.

Resources and References

  • Are You Considering Teletherapy? Check out what you need to know BEFORE You start.
  • Have a question about your policy or need specific information, you can speak with a knowledgeable, licensed insurance representative by calling 888-278-0038.

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