malpractice-liability wallace specialty insurance
malpractice-liability wallace specialty insurance

Malpractice/Professional Liability

What is professional liability?
Professional liability coverage is a narrowly defined type of insurance.  It exists for the sole purpose of addressing allegations that the professional's error in judgment or execution has led to an injury, damage to property or additional expenses and that this error should have been avoidable.  This type of coverage is only available to trained professionals.  When we think of malpractice, physicians are the first to come to mind.  In reality, many different groups of professionals can and need to carry this coverage.  In addition to physicians, some of the other more common professional classes are dental professionals, lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers and even insurance agents to name only a few.


Dentists learn very early in school that they need to carry a policy to defend them in case they are sued by a patient for an alleged error.  Most buy a policy immediately upon graduation.  What many don't understand is that this policy generally does more than just this.  A good professional liability policy will also provide defense coverage for clinical State Dental Board complaints made against the dentist.  In addition, these policies will provide coverage for the non-dentists staff of the dentist's practice (hygienists and assistants).  Still, it's important to understand that your hygienists, share the dentist's policy limits.  That means that a claim brought against the hygienist is essentially a claim brought against the dentist.  What most dentists don't understand is that they can insure their hygienists separately for a very low price.

Another important aspect of professional liability coverage for a dentist is that there are actually two different optional coverage forms, Claims Made form and Occurrence form.  Even though both forms essentially cover a dentist for the same things, they work very differently.  Understanding these differences and choosing the proper form is very important.  Unfortunately, far too many insurance agents are not clear on this issue either.

Oral Surgeons

Today's oral surgeon occupies a place in both the world of the dentist and the world of the physician and needs a professional liability policy that understands and addresses the changing nature of the specialty.  The policy needs to be tailored to reflect the full scope of the surgeon's practice.  There are only a few insurance companies capable of properly addressing the specialty.


Many hygienists blindly count on the fact that their dentist's professional liability extends to them.  Often this is the case, but the hygienist has no control over the coverage.  Should the dentist's policy lapse for any reason, the hygienist will lose their coverage as well and in most cases never know that it happened.  Today, with the expanding scope of practice for a dental hygienist and the litigious nature of dental patients, it only makes sense for a hygienist to carry their own policy.  The cost of coverage is very low and the consequences of not having coverage could be very high.

Vicarious Professional Liability

Most dental practices operate under a corporation or association structure.  When the practice operates as a separate entity from the individual dentist owner or owners of the practice, it creates a vicarious liability exposure.  That exposure can be very small if there is only one doctor working in the practice.  Often coverage for the practice entity can be added to the individual owner doctor's policy for little or no cost.  This exposure changes greatly when there is more than one doctor treating patients in the practice.  Addressing this type of exposure is very important.  We accomplish this with an all-inclusive "entity" insurance policy. The cost is based on the number of dentists in the practice and is a small fraction of the cost of individual professional liability coverage. This policy can be structured to provide indemnity and defense coverage for the practice "entity" whenever it is named in a professional liability claim.  The practice "entity" is protected with regard to the actions of any past or current dentist in the practice.  The practice "entity" is protected even when the entity is the only defendant named in the professional liability claim.

Group coverage 

As a practice grows, covering the practice entity, doctors and support staff on a group basis becomes an option to consider.  This option offers a myriad of advantages.  First, it allows the practice owners to control the coverage for all of the doctors in the practice.  No longer will there be the concern that an associate dentist might accidentally let their individual coverage lapse.  It makes certain that all members of the support staff  are adequately insured.  The coverage for the entire practice is contained on one policy. As a result the billing is simplified to a single premium and often includes discounted pricing.

Other Professions

Malpractice is one of our specialties.  If you don't see your occupation listed us, please contact us.