As a dental professional, you spent years practicing complicated procedures and honing your craft. Now, you treat patients day after day. However, even the most respected and educated doctors can make small mistakes that turn into a patient lawsuit.
How can you protect your practice from an unexpected lawsuit? You need dental malpractice insurance. Keep reading to learn more about this essential coverage.
Medical malpractice insurance is a type of professional liability insurance for people in the healthcare industry. If a patient alleges that a medical professional failed to deliver necessary care or made a mistake that led to an injury, malpractice insurance helps pay for lawsuit costs.
Though malpractice insurance is essential for all types of practitioners, it is especially valuable for dentists, orthodontists, and oral surgeons. These professionals perform routine surgeries and procedures that could easily go wrong, from cavity fillings to wisdom teeth removal. Even if a dentist follows every best practice during a procedure, a patient may still be unhappy with their care and decide to file suit.
If you face a malpractice lawsuit, your malpractice liability coverage typically pays for:
- Attorney fees
- Court fees
- Settlement costs
Malpractice policies typically don’t cover claims involving criminal acts and alteration of medical records. Also, your malpractice claim coverage depends on the type of policy you have. Claims-made policies specify a date when coverage starts, and your policy has to be active currently for a past event to be covered. If you want to extend coverage, you need to purchase a tail policy. With occurrence coverage, you are covered during any years your policy was active, even if you cancel coverage.
If you want to make sure you have autonomy during a legal case, look for a consent to settle clause in your dental malpractice insurance policy. This clause states that your insurance company can’t settle on your behalf without your permission.
Several states require dentists to purchase a minimum level of malpractice insurance, and you may need coverage to receive your medical license. Even if you’re not required to carry coverage in your state, you should strongly consider buying a policy. One claim could cost you tens of thousands of dollars, which you and your dental practice would have to pay for out of pocket without dental malpractice insurance.
Dental hygienists may not perform the same procedures as dentists, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t at risk of a lawsuit. A patient could sue a hygienist for causing injury, sharing private medical records, or overlooking a medical issue.
If you have dental malpractice insurance for your business entity, your hygienists probably receive some coverage under your policy. However, if they are concerned about being named the only defendant in a lawsuit, hygienists should consider a separate policy. Business coverage might not cover a hygienist if their employer isn’t named in the suit.
The cost of your dental malpractice insurance depends on several factors, including:
- The policy type: Occurrences policies typically cost more than claims-made policies.
- Your policy limits: The higher your limits are, the more you can expect to pay in premiums.
- How long you have been practicing: Many insurers offer discounts for new dentists and increase their rates after a few years.
- Your location: Malpractice insurance rates differ by state and area. For example, you might pay more if you practice in a large city.
- Your memberships and risk management practices: Insurers might offer discounts if you belong to a reputable professional organization or take regular risk management courses.
Generally, as a new dentist, you can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred to over $1,000 a year. That amount can increase to several thousand for an established practice.
Dental malpractice insurance isn’t the only coverage you need to protect your orthodontic, oral surgeon, or dental practice. You also need standard policies to cover risks you share with other industries, which can include:
- General liability insurance
- Property insurance
- Workers’ compensation insurance
- Cyber liability insurance
If you’re unsure what policies your business needs, Southpoint can help. We specialize in finding comprehensive coverage solutions for dentists and oral surgeons. Our team members partner with the most trusted malpractice carriers and commercial insurance companies, so you can choose from a wide range of prices, coverage options, and policy types.
Do you already have dental malpractice insurance but are unsure if it’s sufficient for your needs? We can assess your coverage, identify gaps, and help you secure better coverage at the most affordable price point. Get in touch today to get expert recommendations or request a new dental malpractice insurance quote.