Dental Malpractice Insurance: Things to Consider

May 17, 2016
Bill Schu

Estimates show that 1 in 10 dentists is likely to face some sort of liability claim over the course of their career. Finding the right insurer and the right policy for you isn't always easy, but it is a necessary evil.

As a practicing dentist, you probably recognize the need for dental malpractice insurance. Estimates show that 1 in 10 dentists is likely to face some sort of liability claim over the course of their career. Finding the right insurer and the right policy for you isn’t always easy, but it is a necessary evil, so lets’ take a look at a few things to consider either when establishing a policy for the first time or reviewing what may be a long-held policy. (Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal guidance.)

Seeing a Specialist

Many law and insurance firms across the country advertise their dental malpractice insurance offerings alongside medical malpractice offerings. There’s nothing wrong, in theory, about selecting an insurance company that specializes in both. But the key to the previous sentence is to make sure that dental malpractice is a core component of the insurer’s offerings, and not a side business the company got into because they thought there might be a great deal of intellectual overlap.

The truth is that there is some overlap in terms of the laws governing malpractice versus negligence and similar issues. But dentists face challenges unique to their own profession, and issues, laws, and regulations that are specific to your profession shouldn’t be foreign to the company covering you. Ask the company you’re considering how many other dentists they represent. This will give you not only a general sense of their expertise, but also a picture of the overall stability of the insurance company. Bigger isn’t always better, but a larger number of dental clients can be representative of a stronger, more diverse, more experienced firm. Also ask around to be sure that the insurer knows the specifics of liability law in your state.

Managing Risk…Especially Your Own

Lawsuits can be stressful, serious, and potentially very damaging to your practice, even if the litigation was frivolous or baseless. While there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of ever being sued, risk management programs specifically targeted at dentists can help prepare you and your staff for the kinds of things that most often trigger liability actions. Then, you can put practices and procedures in place to minimize the likelihood of those situations arising, or at the very least being as prepared as possible should litigation develop. For example, keeping great patient records is no assurance that you won’t be the subject of a lawsuit, but it certainly comes in very handy once a suit is initiated. A good risk management program will walk you through common pain points.

Things Change. Should Your Insurance?

The list of variables here is too long to even think about, so let’s just think about a few: Have you added services to your core offerings? Do you have more partners or fewer? Has your patient base grown? Is the economic or legal climate different now than when you established your policy? Have there been any changes to Federal and State Laws regarding dental malpractice? Have any court decisions come about that may necessitate a change in your malpractice coverage?

Chances are that many of these variables have changed since you established your dental malpractice policy. Don’t just assume that the holder of your policy is going to alert you to the changes necessary. Take an active role in making sure your insurance is up-to-date, still reflects your circumstances, and still meets your needs. Like everything else, a good malpractice plan requires some maintenance along the way.