A lawsuit is never fun for a dentist, or anyone for that matter. For a dental professional, a lawsuit can tarnish their reputation and potentially drain their bank account.
Most of the time dental procedures go well, but there are those times when, during complex surgeries, a patient experiences complications.
And whether or not it was the dental professional’s fault, these patients can sue and win in court.
That’s where dental malpractice insurance comes in handy to help protect innocent dentists.
Dental Malpractice Insurance – What Is It?
Dental Malpractice Insurance (aka Malpractice Insurance) helps protect physicians and other dental professionals. This insurance would kick in when a patient sues the physician for allegedly doing something wrong that resulted in physical harm to the patient.
Malpractice Insurance protects dentists not just from bodily injury, but also property damage and mental anguish. All the steps involved in figuring out if negligence actually occurred end up costing dentists more if they don’t have insurance.
The risks that dentists face when a patient sues them includes financial loss, tarnished reputation, and in severe cases, jail time. The average malpractice claim against a dentist is $300,000, some paying for small dental fixes and others paying millions of dollars to the patient.
In March 2009, a jury determined that a dental professional should pay $10.2 million over the death of a 21-year-old who had his wisdom teeth taken out.
In September 2008, a dental professional had to fork over $14.8 million after a series of poorly done operations to repair a woman’s jaw.
Here are some other common reasons people may sue dentists for malpractice:
- Lack of consent from the patient
- Failure to refer patients to a specialist
- Failure to do prosthodontics work correctly
- Removing the wrong tooth or removing a tooth incorrectly
- Failure to diagnose or treat things like TMJ dysfunction, periodontal disease, or oral tumors and cancers
- Patient bodily injury while in the dental office (slipping, falling, getting cut, etc.)
- Complications from of anesthesia
Are Dentists Required To Have Malpractice Insurance?
Technically, dentists don’t need to have Malpractice Insurance. But it can really hurt them if they don’t.
Regardless of their innocence or guilt, if a patient sues them, they’re going to need a lawyer. And lawyers are expensive. For this reason, almost all dental professionals have Malpractice Insurance.
States Funds vs. Malpractice Insurance
Some states offer programs that put a limit on the awards given to patients, often called a State Fund. If a dentist participated in their state’s State Fund, they pay a yearly fee to that fund, and any lawsuits brought against them have a limit on the amount of money that can be awarded to the claimant. The limit is set by each state’s laws.
To be clear, a State Fund is not Malpractice Insurance.
Dental Malpractice Insurance Occurrence vs. Claims Made
When it comes to Dental Malpractice Insurance, there are two main forms: Occurrence and Claims Made.
When choosing an insurance policy, the dentist must choose one or the other. As far as coverage, exclusions, and conditions, these two forms are identical. Where they differ is what triggers the coverage.
- Occurrence policy: covers damage or injury that happens during the policy period
- Claims Made: covers damage or injury depending on when the claim was first made
For example, pretend you’re a dentist and you have an active Claims Made policy, any lawsuit brought against you is covered by the policy. But if you were to stop practicing or retire, the policy would be inactive and lawsuit brought against you would not be covered. (To extend your coverage after you retire, you’d want to consider Extended Reporting Coverage).
On the other hand, if you have an Occurrence policy, any claim made against you during the lifespan of that policy is covered.
Dental Malpractice Insurance Cost
Generally speaking, Claims Made policies are more affordable for the first five years, but have yearly increases in the premiums. Still, these premiums are usually less expensive than Occurrence policies’.
However, Occurrence policies are more expensive overall because the dentist pays for tail coverage, which is not included in Claims Made policies.
Because of all the factors involved with Malpractice Insurance, like the differing aspects of the two main forms and the different state laws, the monthly premiums can very.
Generally, dentists may pay between $300 and $1,000 per year for an insurance policy. After five years, they may end up paying between $2,000 and $3,000 per year.
Best Dental Malpractice Insurance
So where would you, if you’re a dentist, get Dental Malpractice Insurance?
First, the American Dental Association offers Malpractice Insurance. It’s where a lot of dentists get this type of insurance.
However, there are plenty of insurance companies that offer this type of insurance. Here are some of the top options:
- DentistCare (ProAssurance Group)
- Mitchell & Mitchell Insurance
- mda Insurance
- MedPro Group (a Berkshire Hathaway company)
- Professional Solutions Insurance Company
Every dentist hopes they don’t have to use their Dental Malpractice Insurance, but many have to. And any dentist, even the best, most competent dentist, should get some sort of malpractice insurance.
Every patient is different and will react to certain drugs or procedures in different ways. This means that, even if you as a dentist do everything right, there could still be a complication. And a complication can lead to a lawsuit.