Malpractice Insurance for Dentists
Patients may sue dentists for malpractice, a situation that “can tarnish a dentist’s reputation. It is also a financial burden, with lost settlement money, attorney fees, and productivity” (Guthman 2013). Dental malpractice may involve “improperly done tooth extraction,” “cases of severed nerves where the injury became permanent because the dentist failed to refer the patient to a specialist, extraction of the wrong teeth, fractured jaws, and perforations of the sinus cavity” (“Dental Malpractice”). Malpractice insurance may help dentists because “[this] insurance coverage protects health care providers against patients who sue them under the claim that they were harmed by the physician’s negligent or intentionally harmful treatment decisions” (“Malpractice Insurance”). While dental clinics need to prevent malpractice, insurance helps them cover the costs of this situation.
Clinics should take measures to avert malpractice suits and defend themselves in these lawsuits. Dentists could avoid these suits by being “more attentive to the patient’s needs and condition” (“Dental Malpractice”). Linda J. Hay, “a partner at Alholm Monahan Klauke Hay Oldenburg, LLC,” recommends that clinics thoroughly record their patient’s care in charts, their “[follow-ups] with patients on important issues or recommendations,” and their referrals to specialists (2006). Additionally, Christine Taxin, “founder and president of Links2Success,” recommends, “[getting] signed waivers for procedures such as x-rays” and “[attaining] signed ‘Consent of Medical Provider’ from [primary care provider] before treating patients who take certain medications or have certain medical conditions” (2017). These records allow dentists to “avoid claims and lawsuits” and “defend [themselves] and [their] practice in a lawsuit…” (Hay 2006; Taxin 2017).
In the event of a malpractice suit, different malpractice insurance policies that dentists may choose could help cover the costs. For instance, Stacey L. Simmons, DDS, who “is in private practice in Hamilton, Montana,” states, “A claims-made policy will cover claims made against you only while the policy is in effect; in other words, the insured is covered only during the policy period as long as the premiums are being paid” (2015). Under this policy, dentists pay low premiums for the first year, but these prices gradually increase until the fifth year since over time, “the risk of a claim being brought against [dentists] increases…” (Gracey Backer). Dentists should consider adding “‘Tail’ coverage” to this policy because this “covers [dentists] for claims arising from treatment rendered between the retroactive date and the cancellation date, but which are reported after the policy has ended” (Gracey Backer). In contrast to claims-made policies, Simmons states, “An occurrence policy provides coverage for incidents or claims that occurred during the time a service was rendered, regardless of whether or not your policy has been cancelled or expired” (2015). Unlike claims-made policies’ changing premiums, “The cost of an occurrence policy is fixed year-to-year and is only affected by overall rate changes or underwriting” (Gracey Backer).
If patients do sue clinics for malpractice, clinics should have records and documents of the patients’ care to defend themselves and malpractice insurance to cover the costs.