What Did I Do Wrong?
The social work profession is noble and founded on service, integrity, and clinical expertise. It can be a stressful and dangerous occupation. The nation is grateful for what you do, AND SO ARE WE! Thank you!
Did you ever see those special occasion cards from lawyers that say, “Congratulations or Happy (you fill in the occasion), but we make no representations, guarantees, or warranties!” Their wish list for their lawsuit cases includes sympathetic judges, irrefutable evidence, no hostile witnesses, and friendly juries.
Before we get to the wrong actions, let’s look at risk protection’s root cause. The root cause begins with therapy and its related aspects, and what did I do wrong? Closely behind practice risk is the “clean-up crew” of insurance coverage you have when something goes wrong, and the coverage by contract mitigates or shifts your risk to your insurance carrier.
Along with utilizing best professional practices and sound fundamental therapy techniques, supporting and protecting yourself with adequate liability insurance coverage is essential.
The key top-of-mind insurance protection products to focus on are professional liability, general liability, and first-party and third-party cyber liability. Secondarily, you can consider commercial property insurance coverage, workers’ compensation insurance, and employment practices liability.
Entering into the new calendar year marks a renewed beginning as personal health-related goals, professional educational growth goals, licensing renewals, monetary goal planning, and key among these is an insurance coverage audit. You should regularly conduct annual insurance policy audits, including auto, home, health, life, and practice-related insurance coverage.
Regarding practice-related insurance coverage, consider what you will do next year. Some common questions are:
- Will I hire or add staff employees?
- Will I hire contractors?
- Will I assume new modalities and methods of professional services?
- Will I provide professional services outside of my office?
- Will I be expected to carry a first responder role instead of the police?
- Will my office be in my home or a separate location?
- Who will visit my office?
- Will I provide professional services in public or rented venues?
- Will I moonlight providing professional services to other entities?
- Will I be closing my practice?
- Will I engage third parties to handle or move my records?
Next, examine your three key insurance liability policies that directly link to your practice: professional liability, general liability, and cyber liability. Here is where you pull out your insurance policy contracts, related endorsements, and their respective declaration pages to read in detail.
You must reconcile what you are and will be doing next year in your practice with the actual insurance coverage provided. Let your creative mind explore the “what-if” scenarios and ask yourself, “What could I do wrong?” Because that will lead to the question, “What did I do wrong?”
First, determine the per occurrence and aggregate policy limits. Look at the deductibles and the allowable incident peril frequency per policy year. Many policies have $1,000 deductibles. The Preferra Insurance Company RRG, formerly NASW Risk Retention Group has zero deductibles.
Most general liability insurance carriers cap general liability fire peril limits at $250,000 and only allow one fire claim annually. That is because fire incident claims are severe and relatively frequent. The Preferra Insurance Company RRG, formerly NASW Risk Retention Group has no such cap or limit. Then examine every stated risk and exclusion for its provided coverage and the sub-limits. At this point, many insureds get tripped up.
All insurance carriers list exclusions, some much more than others. Many quote a low price for a thin policy and then upsell expensive optional endorsements to plug the exclusion holes. However, many risk holes are intentionally not filled, and the sub-limits are very low.
You need to read thoroughly and compare policy contracts.
These carriers know where to skimp on coverage because they track their claims losses carefully. Remember that their goal is not to pay claims and to minimize claims losses. One example is divorce litigation peril, a common exclusion because these claims are relatively frequent and severe. The Preferra Insurance Company RRG, formerly NASW Risk Retention Group covers these claims for social workers with zero deductible.
Another example is general liability incidents.
In a qualified claim with some carriers, client injury must occur during therapy and does not apply when the client slips in the hallway on the way to the bathroom or the client’s child in the waiting room slips and falls. Pay attention to the definitions in the contracts, declaration pages, and endorsements to understand what is covered.
Many policies define words or terms in the body of the contract instead of providing a clear section of definitions. This embedded approach makes it customer unfriendly and masks what the coverage is.
Comparing your practice-related insurance coverage selection requires thoroughly reconciling your modality and understanding the direct and indirect threat elements. You must be forward-thinking and project as many incidents claims “what-ifs” as you can think of, read about, and ask your peers. Many are listed above. The goal is to protect you when you are faced with the question: “What did I do wrong?”