When you became a dentist, you did it to help people have beautiful smiles and healthy mouths. As you well know, oral health is a window into the overall health of the body.
What you probably didn’t think about was the business of running a dental practice. As fulfilling as the work can be, it also comes with one headache after another, including protecting your business when things go wrong.
That’s what dental office insurance is for – to protect your practice when disaster strikes.
And we’ll let you in on a little secret: Your insurance coverage is a window into the overall health of your practice. When your business is well-protected, you’re likely to withstand all kinds of disasters, both predictable and unpredictable.
What kind of insurance does your dental office need? How do you know you have enough right now? Our comprehensive guide for insuring your dental office will help you better protect your practice, your employees, and your patients.
Here’s what you need to know.
Who Needs Dental Office Insurance?
Any office that provides dental care, whether general or specialist, needs dental office insurance. If you are a health provider working in an office, you need to be protected by high quality insurance coverage for the work you’re doing. This includes both the top dentist and the hygienists and techs working under you.
Who needs dental office insurance? If you fall under any of these categories, you do:
- Dental hygienists
- Oral surgeons
Your office, employees, medical equipment, and yourself all need to be covered under dental office insurance policies in order to weather whatever happens – from natural disasters to in-office accidents.
Types of Dental Office Insurance Coverage
Because your office and your work carries unique risks that other businesses don’t, you need a specific set of insurance coverage to properly protect our dental office. This includes a lot of liability insurance but also coverage for equipment and income.
Here are the types of insurance policies you need to consider.
All businesses need general liability insurance. This protects you if a patient trips on the way into your office or if a vendor’s car gets dinged in the parking lot. When a third-party is injured or suffers property damage while at your dental office – in the office or the parking lot – you’re liable for their expenses. If they decide to sue, your coverage also takes care of legal fees and settlements, up to your policy limit.
General liability also extends to advertising injury. A patient may allege that a claim you made about the dental work you would do was false. They might sue you over the injury. General liability covers this, too.
Commercial Property Insurance
While the people you employ and the patients you help are absolutely necessary to a thriving dental office, you’re not going to get much done if the roof is blown off in a storm or if your equipment is damaged or stolen. This is where commercial property insurance comes in.
Your dental office will be protected from fire, storms, theft, and vandalism. This includes the medical equipment, supplies, computers, signage, and (if you own it) the building. Your policy will repair, rebuild, or replace your business property after a covered peril.
It may be hard to imagine how your dental office could benefit from a commercial auto insurance policy – until you realize how often you or your staff drive for business purposes. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you or your employees drive to conferences or educational classes?
- Are you or your employees running errands for the office – picking up office supplies, coffee and food for the break area, medical supplies?
- Do you have more than one office that you or employees travel between during the day?
- Do you speak at schools or other locations to offer dental education?
Anytime you or an employee drives their vehicle to conduct dental office business, they should be covered by a commercial auto policy. It works much like personal auto insurance but with higher liability limits.
Note: Personal auto insurance typically doesn’t cover accidents that occur while a vehicle was used for business purposes. A claim could be denied if filed under personal insurance. As the business owner, you could be responsible for the cost of repairs, medical expenses, and lawsuits that occur from the auto accident. This is why you need a commercial auto policy.
The right policy will help your office get back to helping patients as quickly as possible. But what do you do about the income you’re not making while your practice is closed for repairs or until new equipment arrives? Loss of business income hurts not only you, but also your employees who depend on their paycheck.
Business income coverage replaces lost income when your office is closed because of a covered peril. Until you can re-open and welcome patients back into the dental chair, you’ll receive help paying the bills, making payroll, and staying afloat.
Dental Professional Liability
As a dental professional, you and your employees do your best every day. But mistakes happen. A slip of tool. An incorrect diagnosis. An unforeseen reaction to medication. Dental professional liability coverage protects you when the worst happens.
Professional liability coverage commonly known as malpractice insurance is a must for any dental professional. If a patient suffers an injury while in your care, you’re responsible for paying the damages. Professional liability covers the costs – up to your policy limit – and helps take care of legal fees and settlements if you’re sued.
Dental Specific Endorsements
Some forms of coverage aren’t standalone insurance policies, but they’re absolutely necessary for your dental practice. These can be added as endorsements to your coverage to offer further protection against the unique risks your office faces.
- Lost records: If the paper records you still maintain are destroyed or damaged in a covered peril (fire, storm, theft), you’re covered. This policy can help cover the costs of slowly putting those records back together.
- Legal fee reimbursement for employees: As dental professionals, your employees may need to go before a review board or court, either in answer to a lawsuit or for some other reason. This endorsement reimburses your office for the expense of the legal fees that occur as a result.
Employment Practices Liability
While much of your potential liability comes from your patients, business owners and office managers face liability from employees as well. Employment practices liability covers you if an employee or independent contractor sues your dental office for discrimination or harassment.
Sometimes it’s a disgruntled employee causing problems. But sometimes there was a real issue that wasn’t dealt with or corrected. If your dental office is found liable, the policy will pay legal fees and any settlement or judgment – up to the policy limit.
Cyber liability coverage helps you recover from a data breach that leaves your medical records – and patient information – vulnerable. Because you have a lot of responsibility when you keep and manage the personal data of patients, there’s a lot you need to do when it’s hacked or stolen. Cyber liability insurance helps you take care of your obligations:
- Notifying all patients about the breach
- Paying to monitor credit and identity information for a certain amount of time
- Handling calls from affected patients
- Public relations costs to deal with negative publicity your dental office will face
- Restoring lost files caused by damage to your systems from the attack
- Lost income if your office was unable to function due to the breach or hack
- And much more…
When (not if) your office is hacked, there’s a lot of damage to undo, from the damage to your files to the damage to your reputation. Cyber liability insurance helps you get through it.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance
As a business, your dental office will be required to carry workers’ compensation insurance if you have at least three employees in North Carolina (four employees if you have an office in South Carolina). It’s not optional, but it’s also a valuable form of coverage that helps not only your employees but your practice.
Workers’ comp helps pay for the medical expenses and lost wages when an employee is hurt or becomes ill on the job. It also pays death benefits to the family if an employee dies. With the needles and tools you use, even the best hygienist or tech can get hurt. With workers’ comp, they’re covered. Even better, you’re covered too. If an employee decides to sue, your legal costs and potential settlement or judgment will be covered.
You already know your dental office faces a lot of potential liability. It’s why so many recommended forms of insurance are liability policies. But each policy you purchase has its own policy limit. The limit you choose is based on a lot of factors from cost to the most likely peril you’ll face.
But what do you do when a claim is simply too big? One of those rare situations when everything went wrong and a former patient or employee decides to sue for millions? Without umbrella liability, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for the difference between your policy limit and the total claim amount.
Like the umbrella it’s named for, you’ll be covered when disaster rains down. This is extra liability coverage for any other covered peril you face. Once your original policy pays as much as it can, this policy will take care of the rest – up to the policy limit.
How Much Does Dental Office Insurance Cost?
Keeping your costs low is important for any business owner. Insurance doesn’t always seem worth the expense – until you need it.
Just like with your personal insurance coverage, the total cost depends on a variety of factors, some you can control and some you can’t:
- Location of practice: Some areas are more or less expensive to operate than others; some areas can be deemed more risky than other locations, depending on a wide variety of factors.
- Deductible and policy limits: Choosing higher deductibles or lower policy limits can decrease the cost, but don’t sacrifice protection you may need later just to save a few dollars now.
- Number of employees: The more people working in your practice, the more risk.
- Number of previous claims: Workers’ comp factors in previous paid claims when assessing your policy’s cost. Likewise, at renewal, previous claims for other insurance may impact the rate offered from a current insurer.
Dental office insurance costs vary depending on so many factors. The best way to make sure you’re getting the best coverage at a price you can afford is to work with an independent insurance agency. That way you can receive and review estimates from a variety of insurers. You can pick and choose the best policy for each form of coverage you need.
When you work with an independent insurance agency, you get more choice, a better price, and excellent insurance protection for your practice.
Is Dental Office Insurance Required?
As with most things, the answer is…it depends. The vast majority of insurance that will protect your dental office is optional, but there are a couple of exceptions.
Workers’ compensation is required by law for any business with a certain number of employees. This is true in North Carolina and South Carolina. Not purchasing coverage can result in serious consequences and much more expensive insurance when you finally do comply. It’s not worth skipping.
In North Carolina, you’re required to show a history of malpractice (aka professional liability) coverage to obtain your dental license and renew it. According to the State Board of Dentistry, you’re required to submit “a letter of coverage history from all current and previous malpractice insurance carriers covering the applicant.” In South Carolina, this is not required.
As for the rest, it’s optional. However, we highly recommend purchasing the most dental office insurance you can afford. Some protection is better than none. Without it, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for lawsuits, property damage, injuries to third-parties, and more. One storm or mistake could financially devastate your dental practice without insurance.
In Conclusion: Provide Your Dental Office With the Best Protection Possible
Running a thriving dental practice requires so many things: knowledgeable employees, the right office procedures, excellent equipment and training. Keeping your dental office going in times of crisis requires the right insurance coverage.
At Charlotte Insurance, we can help you figure out exactly what coverage your office needs, answer your questions, and provide free estimates to help you find the right insurance coverage. Don’t leave yourself, your employees, or your dental office unprotected. Make sure you have the right dental office insurance for your practice.