Most healthcare professionals are exposed to at least some malpractice liability risk, dentists face unique risks because of the work they do. Their specialty is different from that of medical doctors, and they generally need specialized insurance. Dental malpractice insurance is designed to help Massachusetts dentists shield themselves from many of the malpractice liability risks that they’re exposed to.
As is the case with most liability insurances, dental malpractice insurance will normally help with a range of potential expenses. A policy will likely cover defense fees, court costs and settlement amounts in the event of a covered claim (up to the policy’s limit). This coverage typically starts when a suit is filed and regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome.
Most dentists practicing in Massachusetts should carry dentist insurance from an insurer that’s licensed in the state. Not carrying coverage can leave dentists susceptible to both liability and potential legal issues, and this tends to be the most suitable type of malpractice liability coverage for those who provide dental care.
While this type of insurance is largely useful to dentists, it may not meet all the needs of oral surgeons and orthodontists. Those who provide more involved care often need additional coverages that are available through another or an adapted policy. Anyone who’s unsure of which insurance is better for their situation can get advice from an insurance agent who specializes in dentist and related policies.
Whether dentist insurance extends to employees depends on the terms of a policy. In many cases, employees do receive coverage This has two main potential applications.
Dentists who are in private practice and purchase a dentist policy usually get a policy that also covers hygienists. This ensures that the practice is well covered, and it prevents hygienists from needing their own insurance for work.
Dentists who are employees of a practice usually have coverage through their employer, whether that’s a practice, medical facility or other organization. Sometimes nonprofits that offer dental care also have dentist coverage that applies to their employees and/or volunteers.
Any employer-provided coverage likely only applies to services done within the scope of that employment. Side gigs and volunteer work (unless done for an organization that provides insurance) are unlikely to be covered by an employer’s insurance.
Whether dentist coverage extends to providers who work as independent contractors likewise depends on the terms of an organization's policy. Independent contractors generally are less likely to be covered by an organization’s insurance, though.
Before beginning any work as an independent contractor, dentists should first determine whether they receive any coverage. An experienced insurance agent can assist with this.
Dental malpractice policies are normally underwritten with either claims-made coverage or occurrence coverage. The two options determine what claims are covered differently.
Claims-made policies typically cover only claims that are made within a specific period. The period may cover the policy’s effective dates and a retroactive time, but anything outside of this range is unlikely to be covered.
Occurrence policies instead tend to base coverage on when an incident occurred rather than when it’s made. A claim will likely be covered even if it’s filed after a policy’s effective period, so long as the original incident occurred during the effective dates.
If you need assistance finding good dental malpractice insurance, contact the independent insurance agents at Roger Keith & Sons. Our Massachusetts agents will help assess your coverage needs, and they can guide you toward a policy that will meet those needs well.