The right insurance for your optometry practice is a must, but for something so important, it isn’t always easy to understand.
That’s why we created this practice owner’s guide to insurance. It has what you need to know about insurance to protect your career and livelihood. First up, a look at professional liability insurance, one of the most important coverages you’ll ever have.
Practice Owner’s Guide to Insurance: Understanding Professional Liability Insurance
Professional liability insurance is the coverage that protects you if you get sued for medical malpractice for the services you provide. While it’s true that the chance of being sued as an optometrist isn’t as high as it is for a brain surgeon or even an ophthalmologist, it does happen.
About one out of 250 optometrists will be accused of malpractice this year and one out of 1,000 will be forced to make a payment as part of a legal settlement or judgement. Half of these awards are less than $50,000, but cases of judgements as high as $5 million do exist.
Without insurance, practice owners would face these and other costs on their own. For a small business owner, such costs could mean the loss of your livelihood or career.
Professional liability insurance is designed with these risks in mind. It’s designed to protect your career by safeguarding your practice against malpractice claims, lawsuits, settlements and judgements.
Once you understand the general purpose of Professional Liability and how it works, it is important understand more complex terms and conditions that will be used throughout your policy documents. Find our tips here.
Common Claims Professional Liability Insurance Protects Against
Claims happen for several reasons, particularly when a poor outcome, such as those regarding glaucoma, retinal detachment or tumor, is interpreted as the result of an optometrist’s negligence. The most common claim is failure to diagnose. But patients also commonly claim:
- Delay in diagnosis
- Misdiagnosis or wrong diagnosis
- Improper treatment management
- Referral or consultation failures or delays
We have also noticed:
- Poor record keeping—Incomplete documentation is a primary target in malpractice litigation. Institute proper documentation processes in your practice to ensure that your records are always complete.
- Forgetting informed consent documentation—As with all professionals in the healthcare-related industries, always receive the proper informed consent documentation from a patient before performing a test or procedure.
- Lack of pupil dilation—When optometrists choose not to dilate the pupil when necessary in an examination, they may find themselves at risk of a lawsuit. Dilation itself rarely causes liability claims.
Unfortunately, despite your expertise and attention to detail, you and your practice can still be sued even when you’ve done nothing wrong. Frivolous lawsuits place such a risk on a practice that having adequate levels of professional liability insurance is even required by law.
What Professional Liability Insurance Covers
All insurance policies are different, but with Professional Liability Insurance from the AOA Insurance Alliance, administered by Lockton Affinity, you have coverage for the broad range of services you provide, within your state’s defined scope of practice. In the event of a lawsuit, you have access to:
- The services of an experienced malpractice attorney
- Thorough administrative defense
- Lost income protection
- A substitute optometrist in your absence and more
With Lockton Affinity, you have easy access to the coverage you need at a competitive cost, including coverage flexibility for doctors who practice in group settings.
If you employ or partner with one or multiple optometrists, you can purchase a group professional liability policy. This policy will be shared between you and the others in your group, including premium costs and policy limits.
Because you will be sharing the policy limits with other members of your group, you will likely want to select a higher limit of liability. (See tips for selecting your insurance limits). The higher the insurance limit, the higher the level of coverage. This will ensure everyone is covered, even if a claim or multiple claims are made during a policy year.
Because it is difficult to accurately estimate the maximum possible loss liability, professionals and organizations generally choose the highest limits of liability available to them.
Group policies can also provide the option of separate limits, meaning your practice has an additional limit of liability, the same amount as yours but separate. This is another good option to ensure you and your practice have the proper coverage.
How to Purchase Professional Liability Coverage
It’s hard to guess when you might be sued for malpractice. Unfortunately, treatment and outcomes don’t always go perfectly. However, you can make choices about insurance coverage now that will protect you and your career from future malpractice claims and lawsuits.
For the best protection, it’s wise to purchase professional liability insurance with broad coverage for all the optometry services you will perform that fall within your state’s scope of practice.
You can apply for and purchase Lockton Affinity’s Professional Liability Insurance and other coverages for your practice conveniently online.
With Lockton Affinity, you also get to choose your own coverage limits for each policy term, including per-claim limit and per-policy year limit, allowing you to get the right coverage to cover your unique exposures.
Questions are normal when you’re shopping for insurance, especially when it is for something as important as your optometry practice. If you have more questions about Professional Liability Insurance, email Lockton Affinity at [email protected].
Be on the lookout for another addition to the Practice Owner’s Guide to Insurance series.