Yvonne Shaw, underwriting policy lead at Dental Protection, explains how we are offering practice principals peace of mind when it comes to protection against vicarious liability.
Through our regular contact with practice principal members, we know that the recent legal case of Breakingbury v Croad created significant anxiety about the risk of being the subject of claims related to vicarious liability or a non-delegable duty of care. You may also be aware that our Dental Director, Raj Rattan, has been subject to such a claim when he had no involvement in the clinical treatment of the patient.
Although we will continue to challenge and fight cases when appropriate to do so, we understand how concerning these developments are and we know that you do not want to be exposed to this risk. We have therefore been looking at how we can provide additional support for our members to help alleviate these concerns.
The good news is that our practice principal members can now request assistance with vicarious liability and non-delegable duty of care claims. There are various products on the market that refer to vicarious liability protection and it is important that practice owners read the small print and check whether there may be any limitations to what is provided and who is protected.
In this article we discuss some of the key considerations and offer reassurance on the comprehensive protection that our membership includes above and beyond other products on the market.
What your membership includes
As a practice owner we understand that you will want to ensure that you are protected against vicarious liability claims, which focus on the relationship between the practice owner and the self-employed treating clinicians and whether this could be considered by the Court to be “akin to employment”.
However, there is also the additional risk of claims arising that include allegations relating to non-delegable duty of care. These claims focus on the relationship between the practice owner and the patient and whether the practice owner is under a personal duty to protect the patient from risk of injury even where the task has been delegated to another
Dental Protection membership for current and new practice principal members, now includes additional protection against both vicarious liability and non-delegable duty of care claims relating to treatment provided by self-employed, contracted dental practitioners.
If such claims arise, you will want the reassurance that you are protected from the full range of associated costs. The assistance Dental Protection can provide extends to include the cost of defending claims, as well as paying damages where the practice principal is found liable and where these cannot be recovered from the treating associate clinicians.
Protection for you and your staff
It is important to consider who the protection relates to and whether it includes all those who may have treated patients in your practice. Practice principal members of Dental Protection can request assistance with regards to claims that relate not just to the actions of self-employed, contracted dental practitioners, but also to other contracted and employed clinicians including foundation dentists and dental care professionals.
Furthermore, these associates or dental care professionals do not need to be members of Dental Protection for you to be eligible, although you must ensure that they have adequate indemnity arrangements in place.
If you own more than one practice, you will also want to ensure your protection isn’t limited to just one practice. Some other products on the market suggest charges will apply for any practice owner with more than one practice. At Dental Protection, we are automatically including this protection for practice principal members who own, or have owned, three or fewer practices at no additional cost.
For those who own, or have owned, four or more practices, you can apply for this additional protection, which may incur a supplementary charge, and should contact us to talk this through.
We know from our experience of claims handling that many dental claims include allegations about treatment that was provided more than 10 years ago, and that some providers only include limited periods of retrospective cover or may include none at all.
At Dental Protection we have not set an arbitrary cut off period as we want to provide practice principal members with as much reassurance as possible and have therefore included protection for all your time in membership as a practice principal.
Put simply this means that as a current practice principal member, you can request assistance if you receive a claim alleging vicarious liability or non-delegable duty of care relating to any period during your time in membership as a practice principal .
New practice principal members joining Dental Protection will continue to be protected from such claims throughout their time as a member. For members returning to Dental Protection membership, this benefit will not only apply prospectively, but they will also become eligible to request assistance with a claim for any previous periods of membership with us when they were a practice principal.
Protecting you and the profession
We know you want us to fight your corner and the introduction of the additional protection does not change our intention to do so. At Dental Protection, we remain committed to challenging the principle of these often-unnecessary claims on behalf of members, and this means that in the first instance we will look to redirect the claim to the treating clinicians. We understand the importance of this for all our members and for the wider profession.
We know that the subject of vicarious liability and non-delegable duty of care has and will continue to generate a great deal of debate and concern among practice owners. But now more than ever it is important that the organisations you belong to work hard to provide you with reassurance that you are as protected as you can be.
Dental Protection exists solely to protect the careers, reputations and financial security of our members, and we hope that the additional layer of protection we are providing in this area gives you the peace of mind you need.
Further details on the extended benefits for practice principal members can be found here.