Professional liability insurance: Are you adequately covered?

College of Massage Therapists of British Columbia
January 27, 2014
By College of Massage Therapists of British Columbia
Jan. 27, 2014 — Whether you’re new to practice or a seasoned professional, the decisions you make about purchasing or renewing professional liability insurance can make a world of difference if a claim is ever made against you.
The College of Massage Therapists of British Columbia’s (CMTBC) Bylaws define the minimum requirements for registrants: Each Active Registrant must obtain and at all times maintain professional liability insurance coverage in an amount of at least $2,000,000 per claim or per occurrence, in a form that is satisfactory to the College.

For many, professional liability insurance matters can take a back seat to more tangible concerns, observes Kevin McIntyre, vice-president of the Insurance Brokers Association of B.C. "People are typically focused more on protecting the $10,000 worth of stuff in their office." He advises his clients to consider the real risks.

"An $800,000 liability claim would wipe you out financially if you didn’t have coverage," he cautions. "You need to take it seriously."

In B.C., many RMTs purchase their professional liability insurance through the Massage Therapists’ Association of BC (MTABC), which offers group insurance packages to its members. Others choose to work with an independent insurance broker who specializes in health professional liability insurance. Either way, it’s important to do your homework first to ensure you’re adequately protected throughout your professional career.

Mind the gap when choosing coverage
It’s not uncommon for RMTs to have breaks in their active status with CMTBC – whether for leaves of absence (maternity, family caregiver), extended travel or other reasons. And while the College does not require you to carry professional liability insurance during these gaps in practice, you may still be at risk for a claim against you.

There are two types of professional liability insurance available to RMTs – claims‐based and occurrence‐based. While MTABC offers an occurrence‐based package, many other health professions favour a claims‐based approach, according to McIntyre.

With occurrence‐based insurance, your coverage is tied to the date the injury allegedly occurred, not the date the claim was made. Therefore, if you treated a patient in 2005 and she brings forward a claim against you in 2012, the claim would be covered by your policy from 2005.

On the other hand, if you purchase claims-based insurance, your coverage applies to the date the claim is first brought forward. Therefore, the claim brought against you in 2012 for a 2005 treatment would be covered by the policy you purchased for 2012. If you are inactive in 2012 and have not arranged for insurance during this time, you will not be covered. This issue also applies if you’re leaving practice or retiring. You’ll need to purchase "tail coverage" to protect yourself against any future claims.

It’s good to ask
Getting clear on the difference between occurrence‐based and claims‐based insurance isn’t the only thing to consider. Different aspects of the way you practice could affect the kind of coverage you need.

When considering the insurance that’s right for you, it’s important to ask as many questions as you need in order to satisfy yourself that you truly understand the policy you're being offered.

Here are some questions you may want to ask:
  • What is covered and what is excluded from the policy?
  • What are the limits of the policy? Do I have the option of increasing any of the limits, or can I “top up” with another policy?
  • Are there any extra options I can purchase, such as business interruption coverage, crime coverage, accident/disability coverage, or critical illness coverage?
  • Are there deductibles? How much are they?
  • What legal fees are covered? Are lawyers appointed by the insurance company, or can I use my own?
  • If I’m dual registered (e.g. RMT and R.Ac.), how does that affect my insurance needs?
  • Does the policy cover all the work I might do, such as on‐site or mobile massage, taping, splinting and different types of techniques?
  • Will the policy cover me if I work out of a home office? Do I need to revise my home insurance?
  • Does the policy cover work in another country or province?
  • Does the coverage apply to staff, RMT mentorships or student interns?
  • Am I covered for claims resulting from any activities teaching or learning massage therapy techniques?
  • Will my insurance cover me for any products I sell, such as lotions or exercise equipment?
  • Will I receive comprehensive documentation for my policy in lay language, including written notice of any policy changes that may affect my coverage?
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This article was originally published in the College of Massage Therapists of British Columbia's website and is reposted on Massage Therapy Canada with permission from the College.

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