As a practicing dentist, there's a chance you could be subject to being sued at any point in your career. The litigation process can be costly and complex, but avoiding mistakes may not always be an option. Due to how frequently dentists use anesthesia and tend to perform complex procedures, their profession puts them at a high risk of medical malpractice claims. Dental malpractice insurance can help to protect general practitioners, orthodontists, dental assistants, and other staff whenever a problem arises.
What Risks Do Dentists Face?
There are several instances in which a dentist can face a medical malpractice lawsuit. Common examples include:
- A patient who has an adverse reaction to anesthesia or a specific drug
- Removing the wrong tooth
- Failure to receive proper patient consent
- Injuring a patient during surgery
- Failure to identify an underlying issue, such as oral cancer
A medical malpractice claim can be made by a patient who was in your care a day ago, or even 10 years ago. Regardless of whether the claim is actual or perceived, your practice could suffer without adequate coverage.
What Does Dental Malpractice Insurance Cover?
Dental malpractice insurance is typically tailored to the specific dentist's needs. For example, a dentist who employs less than a dozen employees will have different coverage requirements than one who has a larger practice. There are two common types of malpractice insurance coverages, and understanding how they differ is extremely important, especially if a patient files a claim against you.
- Claims-made policies: These types of policies cover the specific time period when a claim was filed against your practice. A policy of this nature can be written to cover a retroactive date or time during which the alleged act that is the basis of the claim took place, usually up to the past five years. In other words, if a former patient claims he or she became injured whenever you were extracting a tooth three years ago, a claims-made policy can help cover medical expenses and legal fees. Benefits from a claims-made policy expire after the policy or applicable extended reporting period expires or is cancelled. For that reason, many newly-retired dentists opt to keep their policies active for several years after their last day in practice. Or, they'll choose to take out a different type of policy called tail-coverage insurance.
- Occurrence-based policies: Under these types of policies, coverage is determined based on when the claims or incidents happened, regardless of whether the policy has expired or cancelled by the insured. Therefore, if a former patient claims he or she became injured whenever you were extracting a tooth three years ago, the occurrence-based policy that was in effect at the time of the alleged injury can help cover the claim, even if the claim is made several years after the policy has expired.
Claims-made policies usually cost less than occurrence-based policies, although both types can be part of an advisable malpractice insurance program for any practicing dentist.
What Other Types of Insurance Policies Do Dentists Need?
In addition to dentist malpractice insurance, any practitioner who has employees should have workers' compensation insurance. Under this coverage, if one of your staff members becomes injured at work, he or she could receive compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and rehabilitation fees.
General liability is also important to consider. If a patient slips on a wet floor while visiting your office, medical malpractice insurance most likely wouldn't cover the expense. However, general liability helps cover a variety of third-party claims, resulting in further protection for your practice.
Since the risk of fire, vandalism, water damage, and other hazards is always present, most dentists also carry commercial property insurance. This type of coverage protects your building and any equipment you use.
Where Can I Find Affordable Insurance for Dentists?
It's important to find the right insurance for your practice. AmVenture is here to help you evaluate which risks you may be exposed to. Our highly experienced insurance agents can show you how to prepare for the unexpected, and we offer custom insurance options tailored to meet the needs of dental practices like yours. Find out how much you can save on dental malpractice insurance with a free quote.