Why Professional Liability? Understanding your Risk
Updated: Dec 12, 2019
Professional Liability and Malpractice Insurance are different terms referring to the same thing: protection for your professional services. As a mental health professional, CPH & Associates offers you peace of mind while extending the type of coverage we often call “malpractice insurance.”
Over the course of a career, most professionals will experience this “What should I do?” moment. That is why we are here at CPH & Associates to help you navigate through a potentially difficult process. We are here so that, in the case of an unfortunate event or professional complaint, you don’t have to go it alone.
Even if you don’t necessarily have a lawsuit or board complaint on your hands, we offer consultations with an attorney under our “Avoiding Liability Helpline” so that you can speak with someone to avoid any such situation. Also, our monthly “Avoiding Liability Bulletin” provides insight on new scenarios to help clinicians through potential ethical dilemmas that are coming to light in an ever changing and evolving field.
Malpractice insurance isn’t only for medical professionals. In these litigious times, mental health professionals are encouraged to carry professional liability insurance (or malpractice insurance) to safeguard from a claim or lawsuit named against you and/or your business.
If a client, their spouse, or parent/guardian files a complaint or lawsuit, malpractice insurance with CPH & Associates provides unlimited defense coverage and state licensing board defense to protect your career and assets.
Coverage highlights include:
Occurrence form Lifetime coverage
Professional Liability coverage is portable and follows you wherever you can legally practice
Unlimited defense coverage
Optional General Liability “Slip and Fall” Coverage
Business Personal Property Coverage
State licensing board defense coverage
Deposition expense coverage
The professional liability journey begins with student practicum and coverage can be upgraded/customized throughout the path to licensure. Associate level mental health professionals, fully licensed professionals, and group practice owners should be protected continuously through each step.
CPH & Associates is committed to partnering with therapists throughout their professional journey to meet the unique needs presented over the course of one’s education, training, supervision and private practice. Insuring those in the mental health field is our specialty. We will listen to our clients and have proven to be flexible in tailoring the policy to the needs of you, the clinician, to provide the protection you need.
As an employee of a group practice, you may still want to consider securing individual coverage. As a professional, you know that some of the biggest breakthroughs occur once a client has settled into therapy and developed a level of trust with the clinician. This trust comes, in part, from the intimate and private setting of therapy itself. Unfortunately, this atmosphere also exposes professionals to claims of negligence and misconduct, and, to add insult to injury, an employer’s policy may not be enough.
An employer’s policy is set up to cover the employer for any liability it may face from your work, but this doesn’t guarantee that the policy adequately protects you. The employer’s insurance is in place to protect the agency you work for. It’s prudent for the individual clinician to maintain their own policy that puts them first in the event of a complaint or lawsuit.
Understanding common claims we see from mental health professionals illustrates the importance of maintaining continuous coverage. Here are two real life examples of claims that were submitted to us from our clients. For privacy reasons the names and states were changed, but the scenarios are real.
The first scenario concerns a business policy in Utah with multiple employees holding various mental health licenses. The wife of the client filed a lawsuit against the company stating that one of the employees was having an ongoing relationship with her husband. In the board complaint and civil suit that was filed, the owner is alleged to have known about the ongoing relationship and is accused of negligent supervision of their employee. The lawsuit names the owner, employee, and the business itself alleging emotional damages, negligent supervision of an employee and is seeking monetary compensation for the employee’s actions.
The owner has coverage for both the suit and board complaint because the client’s dates of treatment fell within the policy period. The employee does not receive defense coverage in the suit because they admitted to sexual misconduct. The policy will defend the insureds listed on the policy up until fault is admitted.
The owner has in writing the admission of the sexual relationship from the employee; therefore, defense coverage was denied for the employee. As a result, the board complaint was settled, but the defense cost for the civil suit is still ongoing and the settlement has not yet been decided. Ultimately, it will most likely be paid out by the insurance carrier unless new information comes to light.
The next scenario accounts for nearly thirty percent of the claims we see in a year. The insured is a licensed clinical social worker in the state of Virginia and the board has opened an investigation based on a complaint filed by a non-custodial parent of a minor client. The court has been denying the non-custodial parent the clinical records for two years. The insured was named in the board complaint alleging general unprofessionalism and failure to disclose information.
The coverage for the insured comes out of the state licensing board defense coverage with a limit of $35,000 per year. The board reviewed the complaint and provided written responses to the attorney assigned by the insurance company and the matter was dismissed. The defense cost paid out by the policy was $6,500. Even when a complaint is made that turns out to be untrue, a claim can cost you precious time and money. In these situations, a professional liability policy can help protect you both emotionally and financially.
In addition to allegations, lawsuits and board complaints, mental health professionals often find themselves subpoenaed and deposed by their clients to provide testimony on their behalf. While being subpoenaed rarely implies any unprofessional conduct by the therapist, one certainly should consult with an attorney to ensure they are responding to and navigating the subpoena both legally and ethically. It’s in the best interest of the therapist to report such an instance to their insurance provider to avoid liability risks and take advantage of the resources available to you.
These are all questions that we hear on a regular basis at CPH & Associates. We are well equipped to help the mental health professional if a situation does arise that could trigger some potential liability whether the allegation is legitimate or not. So, what are you waiting for, give us a call today at 312-987-9823, and get the peace of mind that you deserve!