Learn about dentist liability insurance. This coverage protects your practice if a patient is injured while under your care, you make a mistake during a dental procedure or your equipment & tools are damaged or stolen - and much more.
Dentist Liability Insurance
Being a dentist today comes with a lot of responsibilities. Any time that you are providing medical services to individuals, you need to be completely protected.
Dentists and physicians get sued much more often than the average service provider, and that's why they carry large amounts of malpractice insurance; but there are other types of insurance that are required if you have a dental practice as well.
Dentists are doctors who are educated and licensed to specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, injury, damage, or loss to teeth, gums, and the mouth. Dentists may treat poorly aligned teeth with braces or other devices. They may fill, remove, or replace missing, diseased, or damaged natural teeth with artificial fillings, crowns, bridges, dentures, or dental implants. Dentists may refer some of these procedures to oral surgeons.
Although it is becoming more common for crowns to be made in the dentist's office, more extensive items such as bridges are molded and sent to dental laboratories for manufacture.
Let's look at some of the required types of dentist liability insurance for a dental practice and why you should have them.
Essential Types Of Insurance For Dentists
There are five major types of dentist liability insurance that your dental practice should have. You probably already know that if you are going to open up a dental practice, you are going to want dental malpractice insurance. But there are also insurance types that will apply to just about any business:
The most important type of dentist liability insurance you can have as a dental service provider is malpractice insurance. Although general liability insurance protects many businesses from mishaps that happen on premises, it is nowhere near enough for protection against lawsuits that can be filed due to medical malpractice claims.
In order to get malpractice insurance, you must have a valid license to practice and you have to complete an application. Depending upon the insurance provider, there may be a couple types of malpractice insurance that you can get; if anything goes wrong during a dental operation; or you or a member of your staff causes serious injury or death to a patient; malpractice insurance protects you.
Dental malpractice insurance kicks in when a patient sues the dentist for allegedly doing something wrong that resulted in physical harm to the patient. Malpractice insurance for dentists protects dental practices from bodily injury, also property damage and mental anguish of their patients.
Following are some common reasons people sue dentists for malpractice:
- Complications from the use of anesthesia during a procedure.
- Failure to diagnose or treat periodontal disease, oral tumors, cancers and others.
- Failure to do prosthodontics work correctly.
- Failure to refer patients to a specialist if needed.
- Lack of consent from the patient to complete a procedure.
- Patient bodily injury while in the dental office (slipping, falling, getting cut, etc.)
- Removing the wrong tooth.
And believe it or not the risks that dentists face when they are sued include: financial loss, damaged reputation, and in severe cases of negligence or worse - incarceration.
This exposure increases if the provider fails to conduct thorough background checks to verify employee's credentials, education, and licensing. The more varied procedures that the dentist performs the more chance of professional loss. Training and safety equipment should be in place to prevent exposure to radiation when performing X-rays.
Needles and other equipment must be sterilized and sanitized to prevent the spread of blood-borne infectious diseases such as hepatitis, HIV and AIDS. On-site surgery must be closely monitored, with an experienced trained individual administering and monitoring the use of the anesthetic.
Many dentists handle cases requiring anesthesia in a hospital environment and use the staff anesthesiologist. Finally, inappropriate touching and sexual misconduct must be considered.
Commercial General Liability Insurance
General liability offers some coverage when it comes to providing professional services such as medical treatment, but most of the coverage is intended for other things. For example, if someone slips and falls on a wet floor in your dental office, or a child is injured by while playing in the waiting room, general liability insurance covers things like that.
o prevent trips, slips, and falls, all areas accessible to patients must be well maintained with floor covering in good condition. The number of exits must be sufficient, and be well marked, with backup lighting in case of power failure. Steps should have handrails, be illuminated, marked, and in good repair. Parking lots should be maintained free of ice and snow. Housekeeping should be excellent and spills must be cleaned up promptly.
Overhead equipment should be moved before patients exit dental chairs. Maintaining a patient's privacy is critical. Examination rooms, check-in and checkout stations must be in private areas so one patient cannot view information or overhear conversations regarding another patient's confidential information.
You need to have both general liability insurance and malpractice insurance because malpractice insurance only specifically covers the dental treatment.
Commercial Property Insurance
Property insurance makes sure that if something happens to your office that you are protected. There are lots of bad things that can happen to a dental practice including fire, water leaks, theft, vandalism or destruction from a natural disaster like a tornado.
You need to protect your business against these possibilities, because if your building and equipment is destroyed, then you're going to have to start all over completely from scratch with a new building and brand-new equipment. Property insurance can protect you against this.
There is usually expensive diagnostic and dental equipment. Ignition sources include electrical wiring, heating, and air conditioning systems, and overheating of equipment. All electrical wiring must be up to code and equipment properly maintained. A small fire which produces smoke can cause considerable damage when sterile equipment and environments are compromised. Target items for theft include gases, pharmaceuticals, and gold used for fillings.
These items should be inaccessible for unauthorized use and stored in a protected area after hours. Most property items are better covered on inland marine forms such as a computer form or a physicians and surgeons floater. The business income and extra expense exposure can be minimized if the dentist has arranged for temporary facilities with another dentist.
Workers Compensation Insurance
If you have employees - and you will have a hard time running a dental office without them - then you might want to consider worker comp. However, the truth is that you cannot consider it at all because it is required by law if you have salaried or hourly wage employees - in most US states.
Worker's compensation is a type of insurance that protects your employees if they are injured on the job. In a dental office, there are lots of different types of dental equipment that can cause injury. For example, there may be sharp utensils or machines with the potential to cause cuts, bruises or more severe injuries. Workers comp pays for medical bills that stem from these potential risks as well as paying for lost wages when someone is unable to work due to an injury.
There is also the possible transmission of disease from a patient. Gloves and masks should be worn at all times when working with the patient. Employees should have access to vaccinations to prevent diseases. Unruly or unpredictable patients can cause harm including strains, back injuries, and contusions. Dust caused by grinding and exposure to adhesives and other substances can result in occupational injury to eyes, lungs, or skin.
Training and safety equipment should be in place to prevent exposure to radiation when performing X-rays. Since patient information and billings are done on computers, potential injuries include eyestrain, neck strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and similar cumulative trauma injuries that can be addressed through ergonomically designed workstations.
Crime exposure is from employee dishonesty of both money and inventory. The potential for theft, directly or by means of identity theft, is great. Background checks should be conducted on all employees handling money. Dentists keep gases, gold, and pharmaceuticals on the premises.
Rigid controls must be maintained including inventory control and limited access to storage areas. All ordering, billing, and disbursement must be handled by separate individuals. Money and securities are a concern if payments are accepted on premises. Deposits should be made regularly and money should not be kept on premises overnight.
Equipment Breakdown Insurance
You also might want to insure your equipment. Equipment in a dental office can be extremely expensive. If you had to replace your equipment, it is very possible that you would not be able to keep doing business because you could not get enough capital to do so. Equipment breakdown insurance protects you in case of an unforeseen equipment breakdown and allows you to keep your business going.
Dentist Liability Insurance - The Bottom Line
We hope this article on dentist liability insurance has been informative. There are a few other types of insurance that you should be aware of as a dentist.
For example, cyber liability insurance can be important for any company that takes personal customer information, maintains medical records or works with customer credit card information, business interruption insurance can keep you going if for some reason your patients stop coming or switch to another dentist, and employment practices liability keeps you safe when it comes to things like discrimination or sexual harassment suits.
These are optional types of dentist liability insurance that you should consider, but you definitely need to have the other types of insurance that we discussed above. They are especially important to a practicing dentist.