The American Dental Association says that 80 percent of those who graduate from dental school start a dental practice within the first five years after graduation.
Congratulations! You spent years preparing to be a dentist, and you finally did it. And now, you want to start your own dental practice.
You have bought a retiring dentist's dental practice. You have picked out the office and waiting room furniture you want. You have hired staff for that great dental office opening.
But don't forget: You need to get insurance to cover your dental office and dental practice.
You have numerous risks as the owner of a dental practice. Naturally, you have some big-ticket items in your office and waiting room: there's obviously some expensive equipment, and then there are those nice chairs and end tables. And you have your employees to worry about. Not to mention patient mishaps.
Business Owner's Policy (BOP)
If for some reason, you were to lose the use of your dental office because of a fire or other disaster, you are going to need to relocate, at least for a while. You will also need to replace the items that burned.
For this circumstance, your business owner's policy, or BOP, will protect you and your dental practice from having to come up with the expenses involved.
Your BOP also protects you in the event that you lose your computer, a power surge fries your hard drive or your processor, or a virus ruins your dental patient database and has to be restored.
Your BOP can also bundle other types of insurance, such as general liability and property insurance. This protects you from advertising damage and lost income, among other things.
General Liability Insurance
Let's imagine that you've been open for business for a few months. A woman walks in holding a toddler. She heads for the small table you set up for children, the one with the Highlights and Legos. But she miscalculates the distance and trips over the small table. As she tries to regain her balance, she gets her feet tangled up in the small chair, and down she went, letting go of the toddler as she falls.
What a mess! The baby is crying. The mom is holding on to her ankle, which is swelling up at a shocking speed.
Thankfully, you have general liability insurance which will cover this mess. If you did not have general liability insurance for your dental practice, you would be the one paying the looming medical bills, and if the woman decides to sue, you would pay the legal costs for your lawyer and possibly the woman's lawyer, in addition to paying a potential settlement.
Commercial Auto Insurance
You most likely don't allow your patients to drive your company car. But let's say you get a member of your staff to go pick up some gloves, as you are running dangerously short. You give her the keys to the car, and off she goes.
She has been gone for about 5 minutes when you hear a huge "BANG!" Moments later, your receptionist runs into your office to inform you that as she drove out of the driveway, the employee broadsided a passing Hyundai, and the woman, her children, and dog are unable to get out of the car.
You excuse yourself from the room and rush outside to find that the police are there and they are waiting for the jaws of life. Your car is not damaged much, but that Hyundai is hopeless! Your employee is standing there, crying, but you ascertain she is not injured.
Your commercial auto insurance protects you in this instance, covering the cost of repairing the car -- or in this case, probably replacing the car -- as well as any medical costs of the people in the Hyundai, as well as your employee.
Dental Malpractice Insurance
Yes, it is the dentist's worst nightmare: malpractice suits. Just last year, a woman was awarded $350,000 from a dental malpractice lawsuit after a root canal caused nerve damage.
And do you know any dentists who do not know about the patient who suffered severe nerve damage after her wisdom tooth extraction when a drill bit broke off which garnered her $2.69 million dollars in a lawsuit!
Dental malpractice has two different types of malpractice: Claims-made coverage and Occurrence coverage.
Occurrence Dental Malpractice Policies
Occurrence policies protect against claims which are filed against you for dental work which occurred while the policy was in effect. Essentially, if a claim is filed against you after your policy is expired, or even after you have retired, you will still be covered if the claim is about an incident which took place during the time the occurrence policy was in effect.
Claims-Made Dental Malpractice Policies
Claims-made policies cost substantially less than the occurrence policy. The premiums of this kind of dental malpractice policy are based on the timeframe in which the claim against you is made. Claims-made insurance policies offer various different premiums which are based on the amount of time you purchase, which is usually anywhere from one year to five years.
Let's say you have a two-year claims-made dental malpractice policy, and two years and 45 days after the policy canceled, you get a notice that you are being sued. This claim is not covered because you only have a two-year policy. If you retire or leave your practice in order to teach at a local college, you are not covered unless you get another insurance policy which is known as "tail coverage," which will continue to protect you after you are out of practice until the statute of limitations is over.
The High Cost of Dental Malpractice Insurance
Another thing about dental malpractice costs is that many insurance companies offer lower premiums for new dental practices, often for the first five years.
There are also frequent discounts through the dental school, as they frequently have partnership agreements with various insurance companies, or if the dentist participates in any of several types of risk management or other seminars, usually every year.
Other Insurances for the Dental Office
Of course, there are other mandatory insurances, including workers' compensation insurance for your employees. There are other optional coverages you can explore to add more protection and peace of mind.
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