While purchasing your Professional Liability and General Liability insurance from separate carriers is common, purchasing both from one carrier with a single claims team helps reduce gaps in coverage and enables a quick payout of claims.

By Sean Gleason, Cornelius Briscoe and David Simonson

As a dentist running a successful practice, you need multiple types of insurance to cover your risks and liabilities. This includes Professional Liability (PL) insurance — also known as medical malpractice insurance — to cover treatment related injury and medical negligence claims, and General Liability (GL) coverage to protect you if a bodily injury or third-party property damage claim occurs.

However, you may not be aware that many common claims can overlap across these two coverages, creating a potential nightmare when filing claims, dealing with multiple claims handlers simultaneously, uncovering coverage gaps, collecting payments from different carriers… and more!

Consider these three true claims scenarios and lessons learned:

1. A friend designs your website and uses copyrighted photos.

Many dentist practices hire professionals to create their websites. However, some turn to friends — with problematic results. In one case, the dentist’s friend unwittingly used a copyrighted image, which carried an $800 a day fine for each day it was on the website. Fortunately, the practice had coverage for copyright infringement under both its PL and GL policies.

    Take-away: Advertising coverage may be offered under both policies, but with different wording or coverage options. Having PL and GL in one package enabled the claimant to work with one claims team and have all their options for coverage reviewed and handled appropriately.

    2. A patient is injured by falling plastic.

    A patient sued his dentist, claiming he had suffered a concussion and cuts to the skin that caused scarring when a piece of plastic lens from the dental light broke off and hit him in the head and face. The incident happened when the dental practitioner was moving the light into place. Was the equipment defective (a GL claim), or was the practitioner negligent (a PL claim)?

    Take-away: There could be an overlap in coverages. If the practice has both coverages with one carrier, the claims team can manage the claim from both perspectives, investigating what the source of the falling plastic was; i.e., the equipment or the practitioner.

    3. A sedated patient falls in the bathroom.

    A sedated patient needed to use the restroom in the middle of treatment. The dental assistant helped him to the bathroom entrance. While inside, the patient fell, hit his head on the toilet and suffered a brain injury. The patient later sued, claiming he fell because he was over sedated, triggering a PL claim.

    Take-away: The claims team was able to investigate the fall to determine if the accident qualified as a PL claim due to malpractice, or a GL claim because the fall was caused by something else. As a result, the team could ensure that the appropriate coverage kicked in.

    Beware of potential gaps and exclusions

    It’s important to know where there may be gaps in coverage between PL and GL policies. An in-house claims team familiar with both will have critical insight into:

    • Concurrent policy limits that could affect coverage. Dental GL is an occurrence-based policy where claims that occur during the policy period are paid regardless of when they’re filed, versus a claims-made policy that only considers claims filed during the policy period. This can get tricky if there is an incident that continues for years or there are multiple claims that cross policy periods where there were different limits.
    • Restrictions on the number of facilities PL will cover. A dentist might practice in multiple facilities — one they own and another they practice in — but their PL could restrict their coverage to only one facility. This leaves only Dental GL to cover the exposure if PL is insured on another policy.
    • Restrictions on intellectual property. A company’s most important asset is frequently its intellectual property, covered under advertising injury coverage in a GL policy. Some GL policies may restrict coverage for personal injury, libel, slander and defamation. For example, if one dentist disparages another and is sued.
    • Issues arising from treating non-dental problems. A dentist getting involved in diagnosing an issue such as sleep apnea that should have been referred to an associate could pose a coverage gap between PL and GL insurance.

    Protect yourself and your practice

    Every dentist has either experienced or worried about these or other troubling scenarios.

    What will you do if faced with such a claim? Do you understand the coverages you have and where there may be overlaps or gaps? Are you confident you will get the support you need with the carriers you have?

    If not, look for another way. Consider a carrier that offers both PL and GL coverage.

    For more information about using one carrier for both your Professional Liability and General Liability coverage needs, contact PPP Risk Management.

    This information is intended for informational purposes only. Nothing contained in this publication is, nor is intended to be, legal or dental advice. Professional Protector Plan for Dentists is not liable for any injury, loss, damage or expense arising out of or in connection with the use of this information.