Do My Non-licensed Dental Healthcare Practitioners, Support Staff, and Volunteers Need To Be Covered

Apr 12, 2020 | Business Insurance

Dental Healthcare Support Staff

Most of the time, even with complex surgeries, dental procedures end up successfully. But there are times that, with a stroke of bad luck, complications arise. And because of that. dentists can have lawsuits filed against them. Surgeries that dentists perform tend to be more complicated and often use anesthesia.

This could make them more exposed to dental malpractice lawsuits. Since dentists are also human, they may be liable to commit mistakes, and jeopardizing their work is something that cannot be avoided. This means that dentists need to protect themselves by getting a Professional Liability Insurance and is also called Dental Malpractice Insurance.

Having proper insurance coverage is essential because the risks of getting sued can be considerable. Many dentists who are fresh from getting licenses do not learn much about dental insurance. Yes, dentists need to be licensed first to get covered. Some of them are just beginning to understand the inner workings of their insurance coverage only when they move forward through the early years of their dental profession. 

Dental Malpractice

Dental Malpractice Insurance helps protect dental professionals in their industry. This type of coverage would automatically set in when a patient sues the dentist for errors made during a procedure regardless if it is deliberate or unintentional. Every patient is different from the other and will react to certain medicines or surgeries under certain conditions. There is always the possibility that even if you as a dentist did everything you could to make the surgery successful, complications would still arise. 

Dental Malpractice Insurance protects dentists not just from bodily injury, but also from property damage. Note that all the processes to be done in determining if negligence actually occurred to end up costing dentists more, together with dealing with a lot of stress if they do not have such insurance.

The perils involved when a patient sues a dentist include financial loss, mental anguish, damaged reputation, and even imprisonment. By rights, dentists do not need to have Dental Malpractice Insurance. However, not having one has its risks. If you are a dentist, regardless of whether you are innocent or guilty,  you are going to need a lawyer if a patient files a case against you. Note that lawyers are expensive. This is why almost all dentists have Dental Malpractice Insurance.

Types of Malpractice Coverage

There are two major types of malpractice insurance, Claims-made, and Occurrence. Coverage is either based on the date of the incident or the date the claim was initially filed.

Claims-made coverage is more basic, well-established, and generally low-cost. Claims-made coverage is less expensive for the first five years although it has an early increase in the premiums. These premiums, however, are generally affordable. This plan must be active at the time of the claim of the malpractice claim and will not cover any other claims made after the policy has been scratched, even if the coverage was active at the time of the event.

In this case, tail-coverage may be an obligatory purchase to protect you if someone sued you after leaving your practice or if your new policy is not post-facto. If a new dentist has a claims policy, he or she will have to purchase a tail policy, which covers claims made after he or she retires for incidents that occurred during practice.

Occurrence does not require tail-coverage because the coverage is based on the time of the event. If this type of policy was in effect at the time that the treatment was rendered, coverage is assured even if the policy period has been canceled. Because tail-coverage is not necessary for occurrence policies, it may be less expensive as the days go by.

This is different from the Claims-made policy in the sense that Claims-made policy covers claims made during practice and even after retirement. For instance, if you’re a dentist and you have an active Claims-made policy, any lawsuit brought against you is covered by the policy. But if you were to stop practicing or retire, the policy would be inactive and lawsuits brought against you would not be covered.

To extend your coverage after retirement or after leaving your practice, you may want to consider getting Extended Reporting Coverage. This policy is often offered to new dentists or dentists who are still one year and below from the time of practicing their profession. The policy is usually offered at a reduced rate,

Cost for Getting Dental Malpractice Insurance

In general, Claims-made policies are far less expensive for the first five years. These policies, however, have an annual increase in the premiums but they are still more affordable compared to Occurrence policies.

Generally, Occurrence policies are more expensive because the dentist has to pay for tail coverage and tail coverage is not made available in Claims-made policies. It is difficult to say how much is the exact premium for Dental Malpractice Insurance based on Claims-made and Occurrence policies since state rules vary.

If there is a rough estimate, however, dentists may pay between $300 and $1,000 yearly for an insurance policy. It may turn out that the payment may be between $2,000 and $3,000 annually after five years.

States Funds vs. Malpractice Insurance

To avoid confusion between State Funds and Malpractice Insurance, some states provide initiatives that put a limit on the awards given to patients. Such initiatives can be classified as a State Fund. If you are a dentist and you joined your state’s State Fund, you pay that fund annually. If there is a case filed against you, your state has a limit on the amount of money that can be awarded to the claimant based on the laws of the state. This is to emphasize that a State Fund is different from Malpractice Insurance.

As a dentist, it is not mandatory to have Dental Malpractice Insurance, however, it can be a big burden if you get sued and you do not have anything that protects you. Dental Malpractice Insurance is not necessarily required and is in the state you practice in. Some states do recommend dentists to purchase insurance for professional liability but they have the option to say no.

In a 2016 survey of state dental boards, it is surprising to find out that 32 states responded to the survey saying they did not require Dental Malpractice Insurance for dentists to practice in their state. If a dentist does choose coverage, there are plans with a clause that will not cover a dental hygienist if the dentist is not named in the claim.

Additional clauses may allow the insurance to cover the dental hygienist, but also allow the company to sue the dental hygienist later to recoup any settlement costs.

Lastly, even the best liability insurance plans have monetary coverage limitations that may not extend the full amount of a settlement3. This may leave the dental hygienist responsible for any excess court and defense fees outside the dentist’s plan coverage.

For starters, all you need is to contact your state dental society to find out information on where and how to buy Malpractice Insurance. They will have a list of endorsed professional liability companies or carriers. Some companies provide additional liability coverage for several states though, at least half the time the policy is written for the state in which you practice.

Another thing that you need to consider regarding Dental Malpractice Insurance is to ask if you can add additional coverage, such as wrongful employee dismissal and sexual harassment claims, to your malpractice policy to protect you. Chances are there will be an increase in the cost of your annual premium but it will be beneficial in the long run.

Your non-licensed dental healthcare practitioners, support staff and volunteers might also sue you or charge you with unfair employment practice, regardless of whether there is truth to the accusation. If they are the ones who have the proper insurance and you do not have, you might end up being bankrupt for insufficient personal resources.

Legally speaking, it will work to your advantage to have the Dental Malpractice Insurance for yourself first and invite your dental staff and volunteers to do the same. Imagine having a patient who got injured after a dental procedure, sued you and your staff and they have the insurance but you do not. Even if you are the boss on the job, the insurer and defense lawyer will first and foremost serve the interest of the dental staff and volunteers. During a professional or personal dispute, your Dental Malpractice Insurance will protect in case litigation will follow. 

There may come a time that the practice will hit rock-bottom or that you will need to stop your practice for personal reasons, that should not risk your financial security.

My Non-licensed Dental Healthcare Practitioners, Support Staff and Volunteers, and My Dental Malpractice Insurance

Being a practicing dentist does not mean it is a one-man show. You usually have other people working with and for you. If you have concerns for the well being of your other employees, you may wonder if your non-licensed dental healthcare practitioners, dental staff, and volunteers are covered by your Dental Malpractice Insurance. That would be great if they are.

Your assumption, however, will not mean protection so it is important to keep yourself informed. You can do your research and start studying. Discuss the Employment Agreement with your staff and those who are non-licensed should be given special attention. You should have a dedicated time to sit down with your employees and then let them evaluate their rights and responsibilities related to any Dental Malpractice Insurance. It is also an opportunity for them to know the limit of the maximum coverage available and if there are deductibles. A review on their Employment Agreement is an opportune moment to also know who is responsible for paying for the premium. If you are going to pay for the full coverage or your non-licensed dental healthcare practitioners, dental staff and volunteers have to pay for a portion should have been discussed from the beginning. Both you and your dental healthcare practitioners, support staff, and volunteers should also be aware of what happens to the insurance if any of them would resign or get fired.

With Claims-made policies under Dental Malpractice Insurance, your insurance pays for claims that appear during the time you were still active in your dental practice yet the policies get canceled once you leave the practice, as previously mentioned. If this happens, it will leave you unprotected if a patient sues you over a dental procedure while you were still employed at the company or dental office. To assure uninterrupted coverage, you would need Tail Coverage. You may need to know if your non-licensed dental healthcare practitioners, support staff and volunteers can avail of the same coverage. 

Your non-licensed dental healthcare practitioners, support staff and volunteers can steer clear from going through malpractice claims by being adherent to the ADHA Standards for Clinical Dental Hygiene Practice. To be familiar with the jurisdiction of the state they practice helps a lot. At less than $100 a year, you may ask them to consider getting a Malpractice Liability Insurance.

That is not an expensive insurance amount to pay and though not required, it will be worth it when the situation calls for it. There are several ways on how to purchase Malpractice Insurance, and the ADHA offers discounts, however, you can check for some options if you want those dental healthcare workers who are under you but non-licensed to get covered. You may encourage them to instead purchase their malpractice insurance with large enough limits to handle any future emergencies.

As a dental professional providing volunteer service in the dental industry, you also need to know your professional rights. State and federal laws may offer a portion of protection, and malpractice insurers may also include coverage for you.

Protection from common negligence claims is most frequently due to the risk of the job you are into so it should be highlighted when you review your rights before you begin volunteering. The fears of being named for liability claim should not stop you from doing volunteer work.  Understanding the applicable state immunity regulations, health center limitations under federal law, and policies on liability limits are among the things to need to know.

Professional Liability Insurance

Dental healthcare practitioners, dental staff, and volunteers whether they are licensed or not,  should give Malpractice Insurance extreme importance to make sure they do not have to shoulder the entire defense fees outside your plan coverage. They have the responsibility to protect themselves just like you. Still, you can opt to include them in your own coverage but still, a purchase of their own liability insurance is highly recommended.

Need help?

If you have any questions or need help in finding the proper insurance, don’t hesitate to contact us, we’re happy to help.