There are a lot of steps that must be taken before you open your dental practice, but one of the most important items on the list is securing the insurance you need to operate. Before your practice is operational, you need to be sure you have several different types of insurance in place. These simple steps can protect you from costly liability lawsuits, prevent you from losing your dental practice before it even has a chance to get off the ground, and even prevent you from losing your dental license. While insurance may seem like an expensive proposition, it's also an important part of keeping your practice operating smoothly.
Securing the Right Types of Coverage
When you're in school, you'll hear plenty of information about malpractice insurance, which will help protect you in the event of an accident when you're treating a patient. Securing the right types of coverage for your new practice, however, goes far beyond malpractice insurance. Make sure that you have all the critical types of insurance coverage before your practice is operational.
Disability insurance: What happens if you are, for whatever reason, no longer able to practice--especially on a temporary basis? Your physical health is critical to your ability to continue practicing, and if that fails, you may find yourself in a bind. Disability insurance can help protect you and your practice if you're injured or ill.
Life insurance: You have dependents who rely on you--or family members that you don't want to burden with unexpected costs if you die suddenly. Life insurance is relatively easy and inexpensive to secure when you're young and in good health, and becomes more difficult to secure as you age or have health problems--so make sure that you have a solid life insurance policy in place as soon as possible.
Business property coverage: Do you own the property where your practice will operate? If so, you need property coverage that will protect you from natural disasters and other breakdowns that could destroy your office.
General liability coverage: When you own a business, you're open to legal trouble from a number of different angles--and it's not all related to the way you practice dentistry. In order to protect against lawsuits from falls and other hazards, make sure you have general liability coverage on your business.
Worker's compensation insurance: You need a number of employees to keep your practice running smoothly--and if they're injured on the job, your practice is responsible for paying for their medical bills and providing some income while they're out. Carrying worker's compensation insurance is the smart way to protect yourself and your employees.
Property insurance: If you're renting your practice, rather than owning the property outright, you'll find that property insurance is a valuable addition to the policies you carry. This simple addition protects your equipment and other items in the event of a disaster that destroys the facility.
Employment practices liability insurance: These days, it seems as though everyone is willing to go after the slightest offense. EPLI protects your business against the legal costs of claims of discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, and more. This coverage is a critical way to keep legal expenses from draining your practice's bank account.
Malpractice insurance: Accidents happen, no matter how hard you try to prevent them. Sometimes, your tools might slip. In other cases, you might miss a serious problem that a patient's dental records should have indicated. Malpractice insurance won't protect you in the event of deliberate mistreatment of a patient, but it will protect your personal assets and your business from accidental problems in patient care.
When you first start operating, you may find yourself skimping on insurance coverage in an effort to keep costs low. If you start out looking for inexpensive policies, however, you may miss out on several types of coverage that can be extremely beneficial to your practice in the event of a disaster. Consider items like:
- Data loss coverage, which will help you recover from the damages caused by hackers or by faulty security protections.
- Equipment breakdown coverage, which will help restore the expensive equipment your practice needs to care for patients.
- Malpractice coverage that is not location specific or tied to your practice.
- Liability coverage for employees who are driving during their shifts--running out to make a deposit or pick up something for the office, for example.
- Business interruption coverage, which will protect you if your ability to practice is temporarily interrupted for some reason: natural disaster, fire, or other problems that destroy the space where you operate.
- A liquor rider if you plan to be anywhere with your employees--even off-site--where alcohol is served. This might include company holiday parties and other events.
Choosing the Right Policy
In the early days of your practice, the cost of your insurance policies is high on your list of things to consider first. There are several other factors, however, that should be part of your decision.
How much will you need to pay out of pocket in the event of a claim? Most insurance policies will require you to pay a deductible before coverage kicks in. Make sure you fully understand the potential costs of a disaster and how much you'll be expected to pay.
How much coverage are you able to obtain? Low-cost coverage is great, but not when it fails to protect your assets! Take a look at the full coverage amount of the policy and how it compares to the assets you stand to lose in the event of a disaster or the potential costs of an accident. Make sure that you have adequate coverage for those events--even if it costs a little more.
Does the coverage extend where you need it to? For example, you might need coverage that extends to associates in your practice or coverage that details the specific work that your office does.
Choosing the right insurance policy isn't always easy. Make sure that you consider the most important factors for your practice before deciding on the policy that will most effectively meet your needs--and review your coverage often to make sure that you've changed it to reflect the growth in your practice. An annual review will help ensure that you still have adequate insurance coverage to protect your personal finances and your dental practice no matter what comes your way.