Avoiding Malpractice Tips

What’s New With Your Annual Insurance Review?

Feb 1, 2023 | Avoiding Malpractice Tips

What’s New With Your Annual Insurance Review?

The social work profession is noble and founded on service, integrity, and clinical expertise. It can be a stressful and dangerous occupation. The nation is grateful for what you do, AND SO ARE WE! Thank you!

There is a humorous cartoon published on the internet with a cat sitting on the insurance agent’s desk asking the insurance agent:  “I need to buy nine life insurance policies.” This reference is relative to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (Act 3:1), where Tybalt was the “Good King of Cats,” having nine lives. And even before Shakespeare, the Egyptians regarded the cat god Atum-Ra as having nine lives.

It would be best if you reconciled your risks with your insurance policies coverage. This article focuses on the actual insurance coverage you have and not on the number of insurance policies or incident frequencies covered. We will focus on your professional risks.

In a nutshell, you should be continuously doing the following, and at minimum, each year:

  • Check your policies and beware of deductibles, exclusions, lower limits per occurrence, and premium rate hikes.
  • Ask yourself: What is a personal insurance coverage assessment, and what should I do?
  • Ask yourself: Will I be changing my practice methods, changing or adding another employer, or adding new treatment locations in or out of state?

With these questions in mind, know that the New Year marks the start of new goals like pledges to be more organized, to manage income better, or to engage in other healthy actions. Financially speaking, mitigating your risk is at the top of the category.

Without adequate insurance coverage that shifts the risks to the insurance carrier, you can quickly go bankrupt when your uninsured home burns down with property loss when you have a car accident and cause damage and injury to others and many work-related liability risks that require you to pay for legal defense costs that clean out your savings.

Anytime is an excellent time to conduct your insurance review. That means looking at your existing insurance coverages: Professional Liability, General Liability, Cyber Liability, Auto & Home Insurance, Health and Accident Insurance, and Life Insurance. Taking time to assess your risk exposure is a critical security review.

Let’s focus on your professional risks. Think about your professional goals and planned activities for the new year compared to last year. By doing this, you have identified your liability insurance coverage needs.

Practitioners often assume new modalities, practice in multiple locations, digitally and telephonically, moonlight, and perhaps add staff – all becoming more prevalent since COVID-19 arose. The driving element of your security review is your RISK EXPOSURE…existing and new.

Here are nine basic questions (like the cat’s nine lives) and risk exposures to ask about to determine your liability insurance coverage for the new year:

  1. Am I using contractors, full-time or part-time employees, or interns? We have seen several huge claims where the contractor caused severe Liability by naming the employer as a defendant. Does your Professional Liability policy cover this peril, and what is the sub-limit and deductible?
  2. Will I deliver professional services and other new modalities and therapies with new or different employers or as a contractor? Many carriers exclude coverage for claims and lawsuits arising from any divorce-related therapy.
  3. Will I be working in offsite venues? These likely include fitness centers, home care, assisted living venues, swimming pools, hotel conference rooms, field trips in public areas, clubs, employers’ locations, community centers, corporation campuses, office venues, or other clinical offices and settings.
  4. What jobs will I perform in my home or home office? What firewalls exist?
  5. Who will visit my home because of my job? How often?
  6. How am I handling client records? Third-party providers such as digital and telephonic providers and storage facilities touch my client indirectly. I am directly responsible for liability breaches that they cause under the HIPAA HITECH federal law.
  7. What are my General Liability, Professional Liability, and Cyber Liability insurance policy limits and sub-limits? And what are my coverages, benefits, and exclusions?
  8. What are my policy exclusions, deductibles, and premiums? Premiums are accelerating in the insurance market and the medical malpractice category, as much as tripled during the past two years.
  9. Did I sign any waivers or anticipate issuing myself or signing? Waivers are particularly prevalent when you deliver professional services in other venues or for employers. You take all of the risks, and your employer walks away harmlessly free.

The Preferra Insurance Company Risk Retention Group (previously called the NASW Risk Retention Group) provides many insurance solutions to these questions. For example, Preferra’s Professional Liability Policy has a lifetime coverage standard at no extra cost to you. It covers up to 76 Allied Health occupations and modalities with optional Endorsements that you can select.

These Endorsements cover Professional Liability for services provided at offsite venues with enhanced medical and emergency benefits; a variety of Named Insureds such as interns, contractors, and employees; Additional Insureds such as employers, schools, government venues, and owners in other locations; records and client data breach coverage; and many different options to tailor the Professional Liability policy to your needs. None have deductibles.

Preferra’s General Liability policy continues to cover all modalities in any location, with no office size limits or limits to the number of offices, even across state lines in all 50 states, and with no deductibles. Unlike all competitors, there is no inadequate fire peril sub-limit in Preferra’s General Liability policy. Liability insurance policies vary on a loss connected to a business invitee versus a homeowner’s guest.

It makes sense to buy Preferra’s General Liability and Preferra’s Professional Liability policies. For example, your homeowner’s insurance policy may not cover hot coffee spilled on a business invitee in your home office. It would be best if you had a commercial general liability policy. Preferra’s General Liability insurance policy is exceptionally comprehensive, has zero deductibles, and is extremely inexpensive. About half of all competitors charge.

Preferra’s Cyber Liability plans continue to protect insureds for all of the perils listed by HIPAA HITECH and more for the lowest premium in the market. Again, unlike our competitors, there are no deductibles.

Regarding waivers mentioned above, here is what you should know about the insurance market. To “waive” something means intentionally giving up your right or interest. Waivers benefit the person or organization that requests you to sign the waiver. The reason behind the request for a waiver is to avoid the legal consequences that arise from your actions or inactions. So, you take the hit and not your employer.

For example, a fitness clinic may require you to sign a waiver from claims arising from incidents in connection with physical therapies, aerobic classes, exercise training, sports activities, and even field trips. Another reason you need to buy your own Professional Liability insurance policy because you are the party insured. After all, you are the policy owner.

Local or state laws may preclude the enforceability of certain waivers, such as a parent signing away a minor’s right under a waiver. State laws may still hold Liability for certain acts, regardless of any waiver or agreements to avoid vicarious Liability. A waiver may not necessarily protect you if you require an employee to indemnify you by signing a waiver. Moreover, you may need certain waivers to be signed by your clients.

But strict enforceability is subject to many elements such as activity sponsor, injury or damage, age of the person and cognizant ability required to sign the waiver (minor or senior?), and the qualifications of the staff holding the activity.

The big takeaway from this article is that you must consider your professional goals and plan treatment and therapy activities for the new year compared to last year. Then reconcile the insurance coverage you have in place to verify that you are protected. You may be underinsured or not insured at all. Feel free to call Preferra to speak with our licensed insurance agents for free and to assess your liability risks and insurance coverage needs.

We are dedicated to our only business, insuring Social Workers, Psychologists, and Allied Health/Behavioral Health professionals. Thank you for your most valued service to people.

Avoiding Malpractice Tips

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

Resources and References

Join Our Email Family

Receive our monthly newsletter, announcements, and notices to keep you informed and involved in your professional community.

Follow Us