Whether you are new to the field of optometry or have years of experience under your belt, there’s no doubt about the fact even the most skilled professionals will sometimes make mistakes. Optometry comes with its own set of unique risks, and as technology improves in the field, the likelihood of malpractice only increases. Malpractice insurance, also referred to as professional liability insurance, is an important and practical investment which can provide you and your practice with priceless peace of mind and financial and legal protection in the likely event of a claim made against you. However, selecting the right malpractice insurance for your optometry practice is not so straightforward, as not all types of professional liability insurance provide the same coverage and your needs will depend on specific factors. When making a decision as important as this, you need to do your research, be fully-informed and know where to go for support.
We care deeply about our community of optometrist professionals, so we put together this article to help introduce you to optometry malpractice insurance, understand why it’s so important, choose a policy that ensures you’re adequately protected, and offer support in case you need it.
Introduction to Optometry Malpractice Insurance
Simply put, malpractice insurance, also known as professional liability insurance, protects you from the risk of malpractice claims and lawsuits. Malpractice insurance gives you the confidence to practice and deliver the best care possible, knowing that no matter how diligent you are, things can and will go wrong at times. Generally speaking, malpractice insurance will protect you from claims resulting from common mistakes, such as failure to make a referral or follow-up with a patient leading to a delayed or incorrect diagnosis, for example. It’s important to note that malpractice insurance of course does not cover negligence due to illegal conduct, intentionally harmful treatment, or other illegal behaviors. Unlike other forms of insurance, such as car insurance, malpractice insurance is not legally required in the field of optometry; however, it is considered very risky and unwise to go without it. Furthermore, it is required in order to become affiliated with some medical and vision plans.
Fortunately, professional liability insurance for optometrists is typically less expensive than for many other medical specialties, typically costing less than $1,000 per year and as little as $500 per year, depending on several factors such as your location (prices can vary by state) and the type and level of coverage you choose. Also, discounts are sometimes offered to recent graduates and new doctors.
Read more in the section below to understand why optometry professional liability insurance is such a crucial investment for you and your practice.
Importance of Optometrists Insurance
No doctor, no matter how experienced or skilled, is immune to the risk of malpractice. Even if you are diligent and follow all best practice recommendations to minimize medicolegal risk, it can never be fully eliminated. In fact, studies show that over the course of a 35-year career, 95% of ophthalmologists will have at least one claim filed against them, and more than 50% will face two or three claims. Whether you’re at fault or not, and whether the claim results in a payout or not, being sued is a significant inconvenience that takes a financial and emotional toll on you and your practice. In the most serious cases, being sued for malpractice can result in million dollar payouts and put an end to your career. Malpractice insurance is crucial in protecting your practice and staff in the likely event of a claim eventually being filed against you.
Typically, malpractice insurance will cover at least the cost of a suit brought against you by a winning plaintiff (up to your maximum coverage), and also pay for legal representation. Depending on the type and level of coverage you purchase, professional liability may also cover additional costs, such as administrative defenses, lost income or a substitute optometrist, to name a few.
Key Considerations For Optometry Malpractice Insurance
Not all professional liability insurance is created equal; some malpractice coverage options are more comprehensive than others. Every practice is different, with unique needs and circumstances, so the best malpractice insurance for you will depend on specific factors. It’s also important to note that standard professional liability insurance for small businesses may be insufficient for optometry practices. It’s recommended that you invest in malpractice insurance specifically designed to address the risks faced by optometrists.
When selecting a malpractice policy, you should pay careful attention to the two key liability limits: 1) the individual limit is the maximum dollar amount the insurance company will pay per claim during the policy year, and; 2) the aggregate limit is the maximum dollar amount the insurance company will pay for all claims during the policy year. Also, keep an eye out for important exclusions when reviewing your policy. Additionally, be sure to check whether your professional liability insurance covers all your practice’s staff members, including any medical students and associates that may be working with you. If your practice operates in multiple locations, make sure your policy covers all locations.
There are many malpractice insurance carriers available and we recommend obtaining detailed quotes from multiple carriers (at least three) for comparison purposes. Below are some key questions to help you narrow down your search and find the right optometry practice insurance for your practice:
- What liability limits should you look for? What limits are best for you and your practice?
- Is the insurance carrier familiar with the field of optometry and are they able to handle claims against optometrists?
- Does the policy cover all services under the scope of practice in your state?
- Does the policy cover your entire practice, including all your staff members and places of work?
- Does the policy grow along with your practice?
- Does the policy protect your personal assets as well, or will you need a separate policy for that?
- Do you qualify for any discounts?
Additionally, malpractice insurance is certainly not the only kind of insurance you’ll need to consider. Professional liability insurance and general liability insurance are two distinct insurance types. While general liability insurance covers physical injury to people or damage to property arising from your daily operations as an optometrist, professional liability insurance covers negligence related to the professional services and treatments you provide to patients. Beyond these two primary types of insurance, there are additional types to consider, which include (but are not limited to):
- Cyber liability insurance to protect you and your patients against data breaches,
- Business owners insurance to protect your office and equipment,
- Employment practices liability insurance to protect your practice from employment claims,
- Commercial property insurance to protect you from damage to your property, and
- Business interruption insurance to protect you from loss of income due to temporary closure of your practice.
Some optometry insurance carriers have options to bundle various types of insurance, which can save you money.
Recap of Optometry Malpractice Insurance
As you can see, choosing the best optometry malpractice insurance or professional liability insurance for your practice can be complicated, yet is absolutely essential to protect you and your business, and give you the peace of mind and confidence you need. Even if you never end up using your malpractice insurance, which is statistically unlikely, the emotional benefits will surely make the investment worthwhile.
If choosing the best optometry malpractice insurance seems overwhelming, you may want to work with a professional optometry consultant or advisor who can help you review policies and make recommendations. Seeking the advice and assistance of an experienced professional in this area is the best way to ensure that you and your practice are fully and adequately protected. A professional consultant can also offer you suggestions and best practice tips for preventing malpractice from happening in the first place — which should of course be the goal.
PECAA is the nation’s premiere Doctor Alliance Group created to promote and protect independent eye care professionals. We are here to help you through all the complexities and challenges that come with running your own optometry practice, including finding the right insurance coverage. We offer our members countless benefits, including business consulting, billing and coding support, training and education, professional networking opportunities, marketing support, HR support, group buying power, and much, much more. Join PECAA today and we’ll be there to support you along each and every step of of your career!
*The information provided to you via this article are suggestions and should not be taken as legal advice.