Registered nurses, physical therapists, and other health care workers who assist people in their homes face the potential for a liability claim with every visit. If your employees break something in the home, get caught saying unflattering things in public about a patient, or are blamed for some other incident that is not due to their professional judgment or actions, your company’s general liability insurance policy will respond.
For errors stemming from their professional conduct or advice, you would need the protection provided by professional liability insurance for home health and senior care workers. That insurance covers all employees named on the policy and protects your company from catastrophic monetary judgments and legal bills.
Payouts can be astronomical
Medical malpractice insurance – which is a specific kind of professional liability policy for those giving licensed medical care – is necessary for anyone providing such services. But unlicensed aides who provide support or care may also be accused of negligence, errors in the practice of their duties, or a failure to perform as contracted. With any of these claims against a home or senior care worker, there could be attorney, investigative and court costs. You might even end up having to pay a settlement or judgment.
Depending on the severity of the matter, your company could face an astronomical payout, especially considering “social inflation,” a trend in court judgments where plaintiffs are awarded massive sums based on the “social justice” inclinations of jury members.
Professional liability insurance will help with all of these expenses. In some cases, a professional liability insurance policy will cover all your employees, but ask your insurance agent or broker if you need specific coverage for those serving in a nonmedical capacity. It might be that you need a nonmedical home health aide or allied health care professional liability policy.
Different insurers offer different benefits. Here are a few questions to consider:
- Are defense costs paid outside policy limits, or will they erode what’s available to pay a settlement or judgment?
- Do we choose our own lawyers, or are we assigned someone by the insurer?
- What if we want to fight in court rather than settle?
- Will we be covered if someone alleges misconduct long after we have ended our services to them?
- Are HIPAA violations included in the coverage?
- Can we pay our premium monthly?
- How easy is it to add employees to the policy?
- Can we provide services in more than one state?
- Do we need a separate molestation and abuse policy?
Employees may benefit from an individual policy as well
Even if you provide quality professional liability insurance for your employees, some might wish to add a layer of protection through an individual professional liability policy. For example, your employer-paid policy might not include license coverage – help with defending or restoring a practitioner’s license.
Additionally, your company policy will not typically cover an employee doing work outside of official duty hours. Both volunteer and external for-pay work can be covered by an individual policy, and some policies include an important extension for sexual misconduct allegations. An individual professional liability policy is also portable, meaning it goes with the employee even if they change jobs.
Your company could provide a pathway for employees to secure this important protection for their personal assets. Your agent or broker can show you how to do this.
Prevent complaints in the first place
The best way of avoiding costly liability lawsuits or insurance claims is to exercise risk controls at all times. Such practices can seem unnatural or burdensome at first, but when integrated consistently, they become routine.
Here are some pointers to help you avoid the most common complaints:
- Always get written permission to start care from either the patient or the person with power of attorney over medical decisions.
- Conduct an initial and thorough patient and site assessment and establish a written plan of care. Include home hazards, patient idiosyncrasies, neighborhood attributes, pets and family members.
- Note any communication barriers, such as language, speech or comprehension problems, and how those will be overcome.
- Follow stipulated procedures for adding services, initiating hospitalization or making other recommendations.
- Maintain excellent records of all visits, interactions, instructions, decisions and actions.
- Vet all employee candidates thoroughly; train them fully and retrain as needed; and act quickly if there are any violations of protocol.
- Protect against bodily injury and illness, including allergic reactions, needlesticks, violence, falls, property damage and contamination from medical waste.
Your liability insurance will respond to errors, omissions and even recordkeeping mistakes. But poor risk controls could prevent you from getting or keeping quality coverage. On the flip side, companies with excellent protocols are more attractive to insurers and may have an easier time securing good coverage at a good price.
Consider excess liability insurance
As one further consideration, talk to your agent or broker about commercial excess liability insurance. This kind of policy increases the monetary protection your company has. It often follows the same rules of coverage as the underlying professional liability policy but adds a substantial amount to the payout limit. It is designed to protect against extreme losses and can prevent financial disaster if your limits of coverage in your professional liability policy are exhausted.
Blue Ridge Risk Partners is a top 75 independent insurance agency in the United States. With 22 offices and counting throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia and access to hundreds of carriers, we are able to meet your unique insurance needs.