What Sort of Insurance Will Cover Physical Therapists?
If you’re considering a career as a physical therapist, you’ll be educated in everything you know to be able to fulfill your job as you help patients recover from injuries and illnesses. However, you might not learn about the kinds of insurance, like professional liability insurance, that physical therapists (PTs) need to protect themselves from malpractice lawsuits.
What Type of Insurance Will Cover Physical Therapists?
While PTs don’t have as much risk of getting sued for malpractice as many other medical professionals, odds are that many PTs will be a party to a lawsuit at some point in their career. This is because when a patient suffers an injury or illness that they claim is the result of medical malpractice or negligence, they typically include all professionals who were involved in their care as defendants in a lawsuit, even if you did nothing wrong.
A medical malpractice lawsuit is not necessarily a reflection of your abilities as a PT or your standard of care, but you will need the resources to defend yourself against any claims that may arise during your career. It’s far better to have an insurance policy protecting you and not need it than to need it and not have it. A malpractice claim could ruin your career, and if you’re self-employed, it could destroy your business as well.
Professional Liability Coverage
This is the main coverage you’ll need as a PT, but it’s not the only coverage that will ensure you’re fully protected. A professional liability policy will cover you up to the defined limit for any financial awards or settlements that you’re legally obligated to pay as a result of a claim that found you responsible for the injuries or illnesses of a patient. You’ll need a minimum of $1,000,000 in coverage, and as much as $3,000,000. Your insurance provider should provide flexible limits for you to choose from, based on your specialty’s perceived risk.
Defense Attorney Coverage
When you have your own liability coverage, you’ll also have the financial resources to pay for a defense attorney to represent you throughout the case. While you may have coverage under your employer, you won’t have control over how that case is settled or defended. You won’t have your own representation or someone to personally counsel you, and if your employer decides to settle, you’ll have no choice but to settle as well, leaving a black mark on your professional record.
With your own policy, though, you’ll not only have your own defense attorney, but you’ll be able to decide whether to continue to fight the claim in court or to settle on your own terms. Even if your employer decides to settle, you can continue to fight the claim in court, especially if you were named as part of the entire care group that treated the patient and they’re not necessarily accusing you of malpractice based on your own actions.
In some cases of malpractice, PTs are required to defend their license, particularly if they are found to be liable or partially liable for the patient’s injuries or illness. This coverage will help you defend your license in court and will pay for any fees or disciplinary fines that come about due to a medical malpractice claim. Usually, you should aim to have at least $10,000 in license protection coverage as part of an overall liability policy.
Defendant Expense Coverage
If you are required to defend yourself against a malpractice claim, you will undoubtedly miss work while you are in court or conferring with your attorney. This coverage is designed to pay you back for your lost wages that you incur during a hearing, trial, or mediation session that results from a malpractice lawsuit. Most PTs opt for $25,000 in defendant expense coverage to protect their earnings in the event a patient files a claim against you.
Deposition Representation Coverage
This is a special type of coverage that will pay for attorney’s fees associated with a deposition that you are required to attend in a case that is against your employer or another coworker, but not against you. For example, if you witnessed negligence or medical malpractice that was committed by someone in your workplace, you could be subpoenaed to testify at a deposition in that coworker’s case. This coverage pays for your representation up to usually $10,000.
First Aid Expenses Coverage
Most professional liability policies include First Aid expenses coverage that will reimburse you for personal supplies you used to render first aid to another person, whether they are your patient or not. For instance, if you happen upon a motor vehicle accident and you use your first aid supplies to assist the victims while you wait for paramedics, this coverage would pay for you to purchase replacement supplies. Again, most PTs get $2,500 in coverage that renews each year.
Sexual Misconduct or Abuse Coverage
This is not a pleasant subject, but medical professionals are at higher risk than many other professionals of being accused of sexual misconduct or abuse of their patients. Such claims may or may not be part of larger malpractice cases, but most liability coverage policies will cover up to $25,000 to defend you against sexual misconduct or abuse charges, or to pay out settlements or financial awards in the event you lose a court case.
HIPAA Violation Coverage
As a member of the medical community, you will be exposed to sensitive medical information of your patients that are covered under HIPAA privacy laws. Despite your best efforts, there may come a time when patients’ information is accidentally exposed or is illegally obtained through weaknesses in your technology. You should have at least $25,000 of coverage to pay for patient notifications and any fines or penalties you’re required to pay as the result of a claim or settlement.
Personal Injury Coverage
Malpractice isn’t the only claim patients or visitors to your facility can make against you. Unfortunately, you could also be accused of assault and battery, libel, or slander, among other personal injuries, during the course of performing your professional duties. Personal injury coverage will defend you against such claims, and, if necessary, pay out settlements or financial awards that become your legal obligation following a trial. Often, this coverage can be as high as $100,000 for PTs.
Medical Payments Coverage
If someone injures themselves while at your residence or place of business, medical payment coverage will cover their medical bills, usually up to $2,500 per person. Homeowners often have this coverage as well, since injuries stemming from falls and other hazards in and around the house are commonplace. You may already have this coverage through your homeowner’s policy, but if you don’t, include it with your liability policy. Plus, your business will be covered too. Note: this is not the same as Bodily Injury resulting from professional services (that would fall under Professional Liability) or Bodily Injury that would fall under General Liability as both of these would be covered under the higher limits purchased for the policy.
Damage to Property of Others
This is another type of coverage that is also common to homeowner’s insurance policies and is meant to cover you if you accidentally damage someone else’s property while at your residence or your workplace. For example, if you accidentally knock a patient’s laptop off a counter while you’re treating them, this coverage would pay for that damage or to replace the laptop. The damage has to be unintentional, and most liability policies include up to $10,000 in coverage.
General Liability Insurance
Separate from professional liability insurance is general liability insurance, which you will want to have if you are self-employed or run your own physical therapy business. While a professional liability policy will cover you personally against claims of malpractice, a general liability policy will cover your business. When combined with a professional policy, a general policy should provide adequate coverage against most malpractice claims to protect yourself and your business. Personal injury, defense, and investigations are all covered.
PTs pay a median premium of about $35 per month. The limit of these policies is usually $1,000,000 per occurrence and have a $500 deductible. NOW Insurance offers $0 deductible up to $1000 deductible.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance
PTs that go into business for themselves and employ other PTs in a clinical setting will be required, in most states, to have a workers’ compensation insurance policy. This insurance protects the business against claims related to work-related injuries or illnesses. While this is not a policy that is required by PTs as individuals, if you own your own company, you’ll need to acquire a workers’ compensation policy in addition to the others mentioned here. Expect to pay about $55 per month.
Cyber Liability Insurance
This is a specialty policy that has become more critical in recent years as medical facilities have become the target of cybercriminals looking to illegally obtain sensitive information. While you have some HIPAA coverage under a typical professional liability policy, a cyber liability policy will ensure you’re covered for more than just medical record breaches. You’ll also be covered for payment information breaches and the accidental disclosure of other personal identification information of your patients.
When to Get a Liability Policy
PTs should have a liability policy in place when they begin seeing patients, which will likely begin while they’re still in school. Even students can be included in malpractice lawsuits and are actually at a higher risk of making a mistake due to their inexperience. You should take steps to protect yourself as early as possible so that you can focus on taking care of patients instead of dealing with a lawsuit that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.
When you get your physical therapy license, you may go to work for an employer rather than for yourself. Your employer will have a general and professional liability policy’s in place that will cover you to some degree. However, as previously mentioned, you won’t have control over the claim or the outcome if you don’t have your own policy as well. It’s better to be covered by both your employer’s policy and your own policy.
Choosing to become a physical therapist is a noble decision, and more patients are in need of these services every day. However, you also want to take steps to protect you and your career should you ever face a malpractice claim.
NOW Insurance provides professional liability insurance for physical therapists that is simple, fast and affordable. You can get a quote in about 3 minutes from our online application.
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