6 Risks of Being a Substance Abuse Counselor Without Malpractice Insurance

June 16, 2021 •

As a substance abuse counselor, you’re more concerned with the care you provide than with being sued. That’s why you’ve given little, if any, thought to medical malpractice insurance. But the reality is you need a comprehensive policy to protect your good name, personal belongings, and career.

What are the risks of practicing without malpractice insurance?

1. Loss of Personal Assets and Future Earnings

If a patient sues you for medical malpractice, you could lose your personal assets and future earnings without the proper insurance policy. This is true even if you work for an agency or program that has its own insurance coverage; if you’re named personally in a lawsuit, and the agency’s policy excludes you or has lapsed, you will pay for the costs of your legal defense and any settlement or judgment awarded to the plaintiff.

These amounts can quickly reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. Professional liability insurance will cover these costs and also pay for your legal defense (up to your policy limits). In short, insurance is the best way to protect what you already have and what you may acquire in the future.

2. Loss of License or Job

Some states and/or employers mandate counselors carry professional liability insurance. The reason is simple: these entities want to know the plaintiff’s claim will be paid as expected if you’re involved in a lawsuit. If you do not carry this insurance, or start a policy and let it lapse, you risk losing your license and/or job.

3. Being an Object of Scrutiny

Certain malpractice policies allow a client incident to be reported to the insurance provider before a lawsuit is filed. This early reporting sometimes allows for intervention before a counselor is named in a suit, wherein the incident is quickly dropped or settled. Having such an advantage at your disposal allows you to protect your name and reputation – and keep you from being an object of scrutiny among colleagues and suffering a hit to your reputation.

Without this protection, there’s little likelihood a suit will be prevented. Additionally, word can quickly spread and cause serious damage to your practice.

4. Enduring Subpar Legal Representation

We mentioned just a moment ago that a malpractice policy will pay the fees associated with your legal representation. In many cases, this enables you to afford a well-qualified team of attorneys who will go the extra mile to represent and defend you.

But if you have to pay for legal fees out of your own pocket, you may be forced to go with a less experienced attorney. He or she may not specialize in malpractice, and this could become evident in the representation you receive. A reputable insurance company can provide you a legal defense that has experience in your field of practice.

Win or Lose, Costs Are Covered

Keep in mind that even when claims are dropped or dismissed, this does not happen until after some type of legal action has been taken. Meaning you’ve already incurred costs. Lawyers are expensive, and their fees quickly multiply. Without insurance, you can go bankrupt by simply trying to cover your legal representation. But with insurance, your costs are covered whether the case is dropped, won, or lost.

5. Providing Half-Hearted Care

When counselors lack the insurance coverage they need, they often try to deliver care in a cautious manner. They believe prudence will keep them from a lawsuit and offer non-committal answers or unfocused guidance.

But the reality is no real protection can shield you from legal proceedings. Patients sue providers for a variety of reasons. You can be a truly great counselor by purchasing the insurance coverage you need and using patient appointments to promote behavior changes and optimal mental health, while maintaining peace of mind.

6. Ongoing Worry

It’s easy to worry about the future, especially when you fear you’ll be sued at any moment. Peace of mind may therefore be the best reason to purchase medical malpractice insurance. You can rest easy knowing that despite the potential for legal claims, you have the protection you need.

Equally important, an insurance policy will provide a patient with deserved compensation if they do have a legitimate claim. In turn, you can continue with your practice acknowledging a mistake was made (we’re all human) but that insurance coverage saved you from the worst – and will continue to do so.

For most substance abuse counselors, malpractice insurance isn’t something they want to think about. It is, however, a necessary component for the profession. And at NOW Insurance, we want to make buying a policy as easy and affordable as possible. We provide professional liability coverage for therapists and all kinds of medical professionals. Complete our easy online application to receive a quote in under three minutes and secure coverage today.