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

Jun 7, 2022 | Business Insurance

Dental Healthcare Support Staff

Most of the time, even with complex surgeries, dental procedures succeed. But there are times when complications arise with a stroke of bad luck. And because of that. Dentists can have lawsuits filed against them. Surgeries that dentists perform tend to be more complicated and often use anesthesia. So, here we discuss non-licensed dental healthcare practitioners.

This could make them more exposed to dental malpractice lawsuits. They may also be liable to commit mistakes, and jeopardizing their work is something that you cannot avoid. This means dentists need to protect themselves by getting Professional Liability Insurance and Dental Malpractice Insurance.

Proper insurance coverage is essential because the risks that people can sue you can be considerable. Many fresh dentists getting licenses do not learn much about dental insurance. Yes, dentists need to obtain licenses first to have coverage. 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 would automatically set in when a patient sues the dentist for errors made during a procedure. This is regardless of whether it is deliberate or unintentional. Every patient differs from the others 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 determining if negligence occurred cost dentists more. This deals 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 will 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 significant types of malpractice insurance, Claims-made and Occurrence. Coverage is either on the incident date or when you file the claim.

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 they scratch the policy, 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, they must purchase a tail policy. This covers claims made after they retire for incidents during practice.

Malpractice Coverage

Occurrence does not require tail coverage because the coverage is based on the time of the event. If this type of policy is in effect when they render the treatment, they will ensure the scope even if they cancel the policy period. Because tail coverage is unnecessary for occurrence policies, it may be less expensive as the days pass.

This is different from the Claims-made policy in the sense that the Claims-made policy covers claims made during practice and even after retirement. If you’re a dentist and have an active Claims-made policy, any lawsuit against you is part of the policy. But if you stop practicing or retire, the policy will not be involved, and lawsuits against you will not be part of the coverage.

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

Cost of 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 premiums, but they are still more affordable than Occurrence policies.

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

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

States Funds vs. Malpractice Insurance

Some states provide initiatives limiting patient awards to avoid confusion between State Funds and Malpractice Insurance. Such initiatives can be classified as a State Fund. If you are a dentist and joined your state’s State Fund, you pay that fund annually. If there is a case against you, your state has a limit on the amount of money that can be awarded to the claimant based on the state’s laws. 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 significant burden if you get sued and have nothing that protects you. Dental Malpractice Insurance is not necessarily a requirement and is in the state you practice in. Some states do recommend dentists purchase insurance for professional liability, but they have the option to say no.

In a 2016 survey of state dental boards, it is surprising that 32 states responded that 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 will enable 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 total amount of a settlement3. This may leave the dental hygienist responsible for the excess court and defense fees outside the dentist’s plan coverage.

States Funds vs. Malpractice Insurance

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 where you practice.

Another thing 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 practices, regardless of whether there is truth to the accusation. If they are the ones who have the proper insurance and you do not have it, you might end up being bankrupt for insufficient personal resources.

Legally speaking, it will work to your advantage to have Dental Malpractice Insurance for yourself first. Invite your dental staff and volunteers to do the same. Imagine having a patient injured after a dental procedure sue you and your team, 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 you in case litigation follows. 

There may come a time when the practice will hit rock bottom, or you will need to stop training for personal reasons. But 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 or dental staff. And volunteers are covered by your Dental Malpractice Insurance. That would be great if they were.

Your assumption, however, will not mean protection, so it is essential to keep yourself informed. You can do your research and start studying. Discuss the Employment Agreement with your staff; non-licensed people should be given special attention. You should have dedicated time to sit down with your employees. And then let them evaluate their rights and responsibilities related to Dental Malpractice Insurance. It also allows them to know the maximum coverage limit available. And if there are deductibles.

A review of their Employment Agreement is also an opportune moment to know who is responsible for paying the premium. If you pay for the full coverage or your non-licensed dental healthcare practitioners, dental staff, and volunteers must pay for a portion that 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 resigns or gets fired.

More Information

With Claims-made policies under Dental Malpractice Insurance, your insurance pays for claims that appear when you are still active in your dental practice. Yet, the procedures get canceled once you leave the course, as previously mentioned. If this happens, it will leave you unprotected if a patient sues you over a dental procedure while you are still employed at the company or dental office. To ensure 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 avoid going through malpractice claims by adhering to the ADHA Standards for Clinical Dental Hygiene Practice. Being 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 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 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 instead to purchase their malpractice insurance with large enough limits to handle any future emergencies.

More Information to Ponder On

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 fear of being named for a liability claim should not stop you from volunteering. Understanding the applicable state immunity regulations, health center limitations under federal law, and policies on liability limits are among the things to know.

Professional Liability Insurance

Dental healthcare practitioners, dental staff, and volunteers, whether licensed or not, should give Malpractice Insurance extreme importance to ensure 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 include them in your range, but purchasing their liability insurance is highly recommended.

Need help?

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

DISCLAIMER: Please note that some of Advantage Insurance Solutions’ articles may have affiliate links from the Amazon Associates Program, with no additional charge to the reader. Before we publish a review, we utilize and evaluate the products we recommend. In addition to the products we’ve personally tested, we’ve received recommendations from many of our readers. That said, we want to make sure it is clear that if you use our links to purchase something, we will receive a small compensation from it. Thank you.