“Dental Malpractice Insurance” also called the “Professional Liability Insurance” is essential for any dental practices to protect them against the liabilities if a lawsuit is filed by a patient.
According to data from NPDB, about 10,000 medical malpractice claims are paid out every year, totaling to 3.5 billion dollars. It means that the average payout was nearly $350,000 per case. Even if the malpractice claim against a dentist is dismissed in the court, a dentist still has to bear legal expenses if he does not have the malpractice insurance. A Dental Malpractice Insurance covers cost of lawyers, trial fees and court fees.
Most common reasons patients sue dentists for malpractice are:
1. Tooth extractions can cause Nerve damage, Perforation of sinus membrane, Undiagnosed infections, Wrong tooth removed etc.
2. Anesthesia and Root Canal complications.
3. Lack of Informed Consent from the patient.
4. Failure to diagnose the Gum disease, oral tumors and cancers.
5. Orthodontists who fails to properly monitor patients with braces or incorrectly apply braces.
6. Infections of tooth decay from an ill-fitted crown.
7. Unexpected or adverse drug reactions.
8. Failure to refer the patient to a specialist.
9. Injury due to slipping or falling while at the dental office.
10. Complications from Dental Implants, Bridges and Crowns.
Types of Dental Malpractice Insurance
1. State Patient Compensation Fund (PCF)
Many states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Kansas, Indiana, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nebraska, South Carolina and New York have a provision that puts limits on the liability of the physician/dentist in case a malpractice lawsuit is filed. Dentists usually have to pay an annual amount to take part in the PCF. This is not a replacement for Malpractice Insurance, but only protects when the claimant demands huge sums of money, often beyond the coverage of Malpractice Insurance. Each state has different rules the way PCF is implemented.
2. Occurrence Malpractice Insurance Policy:
Under this policy, you are covered while the policy was in effect. It does not matter if the coverage is in effect at the time the claim is made. The benefit of occurrence coverage is that even if you cancel your policy at some future date, you will still have coverage for events that occurred while the policy was in effect.
3. Claims Made Malpractice Insurance Policy:
The policy covers claims made against you only while the policy is in effect. The down side of this type of policy is that coverage must be continued indefinitely to assure coverage for claims filed in the future for actions that occurred in the past. Essentially, once the policy has lapsed you no longer have coverage. If you no longer need coverage, you can purchase a “Extended Reporting Endorsement or Tail Coverage” to protect you for the past.
Popular places to buy insurance:
1. American Dental Association (www.insurance.ada.org)
2. Mitchell & Mitchell Insurance (www.mitchellandmitchell.com/dental/)
3. www.medpro.com/practicing-dentists (www.medpro.com/practicing-dentists)
4. DentistCare by ProAssurance (www.proassurancedentistcare.com)
Recent dental school graduates can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $1,000 a year for a malpractice policy, depending on the coverage type and the amount of coverage purchased. After practicing five years, these policies will usually cost $2,000 to $3,000 a year.
CNA and Aon Affinity, also offer dental firms nationwide malpractice insurance coverage to meet the needs of dental practices.
Litigious Scrub of Collection Agencies
Many lawsuits are filed by patients after they fail to pay for the treatment, but when the staff of the dental practice tries to recover money from the patient, they wait for a debt collection law violation so that they can sue the dental practice back for huge payouts. Many of these patients have a history of suing medical practices. It is advisable to transfer accounts to a collection agency after it has been due for over 60-90 days. Collection agencies are well trained on debt collection laws and many agencies do a litigious scrub on these as well. If a patient is found to have a history of suing doctors, they advice the dental practice accordingly.
U.S. is constantly experiencing rising health care costs and shortages of providers. An overly restrictive occupational licensing in form of SOP (scope-of-practice) laws may also increase health care prices in future.