Do Marriage Counselors Need Professional Liability Insurance?
Marriage counselors work directly with people during one of the most vulnerable times in their lives, so it’s no surprise that there are sometimes misunderstandings that may veer into the litigious territory. It’s important for people who work with marriage counseling to have professional liability insurance that protects both them and their practice from problematic lawsuits and costly court appearances.
Do Marriage Counselors Need Professional Liability Insurance?
In a nutshell, yes! Counselors who work with married couples absolutely need insurance that shields them from professional liability. It is a common misconception that only people who work directly with certain medical situations like doctors, chiropractors, and dentists, need such insurance. Therapists do as well. This type of insurance protects your personal assets. If you don’t have the money to pay a settlement, the court can come for your personal assets. Professional liability is a way of protecting against this because your policy limit would be the “first line of defense”. And if you own the practice, you’ll need general liability as well to protect against accidents or injuries that may occur on your property.
It’s Expected in a Professional Capacity
As a true professional, you should have liability insurance to shield both you and your practice. Professional liability is a must to protect your services and advice as a professional, and if you own the practice, you’ll need general liability to cover accidents and mishaps that occur on your property. It’s expected in most professional communities, and many employers actually require that you have it. Not having proper insurance can also result in you not having access to certain professional spaces or associations. Proper insurance also gives you increased credibility with potential clients. Ultimately, it’s a wise thing to do for both your reputation and your professional standing.
Financial Protection When Lawsuits Occur
Therapists can, and do, get sued just like medical doctors. Liability insurance can shield you from lawsuits that can bankrupt your practice and destroy your reputation. Just as it’s important to have health insurance in case of an emergency, you should have liability insurance to keep you safe from costly and career-destroying lawsuits.
It Can Cover Your Court Costs
Additionally, proper liability insurance can offset expensive court costs and pay for your representation should you have to appear in court. This is especially important in the case of malpractice suits where you will want to have the best representation possible in order to save your career. Malpractice convictions can result in termination from jobs or even the loss of your license. If you want to be sure that you will have the best representation possible, get liability insurance. The right policy will also offer license protection and deposition reimbursement while you are out of work dealing with a court case. Check your policy for the assigned sub-limits.
It May Be the Law
In some states, you have to have liability insurance if you work in marriage counseling. Not only is it a good idea, but it might be a legal mandate. Although every state varies, it’s important to have this insurance if you want to practice outside of your state lines or move your practice. With more people seeking counseling remotely, there’s an opportunity to expand your services geographically and take advantage of the telemedicine boom due to the pandemic.
Coverage in a Nutshell
All coverage varies in scope, but there are a few things that come standard with most liability coverage. Professional liability will cover your attorney fees, as well as any additional court costs, legal fees and settlements due on your behalf. General liability will cover incidents where someone else’s property was damaged, and medical expenses if someone is injured. Ultimately, if you don’t have insurance, all of those things can add up exponentially.
Things That Are Not Covered
There are several things that are generally not covered as part of your liability insurance. If your property was damaged, it will most likely not be covered. There’s separate insurance that deals with property damage, and it’s a good idea to have that as well. Professional and general liability insurance doesn’t cover employee injuries either. Injuries are generally taken care of through medical insurance and workers compensation. If you or your practice was involved in illegal activity that resulted in the lawsuit, you would not be covered either.
Ways Marriage Counselors Can Be Sued
People who work with troubled marriages can often be sued by one or both parties. Since you’re dealing with people at their most vulnerable, it’s important to understand the grounds under which they can sue you and how to protect yourself best and your practice from malpractice suits. Below are only a few reasons why people file lawsuits against their marriage therapists, but they tend to be the most common ones.
Not Enough Training
You need proper training in order to diagnose marital issues and provide proper support. If you don’t have enough training in an area, or if you’re using techniques that you don’t fully understand, you could be sued. Although these types of lawsuits are more common with therapy-related to traumatic events, like PTSD, you can still run into hot water with any kind of therapy.
Certain techniques, like repressed memory therapy, have come under intense scrutiny in the counseling community. If you’re not completely sure that you are trained on and fully understand the technique you’re using, it’s best to stay away from it.
Failure to Understand the Scope of the Problem
Therapists often have to make big claims about their clients using the information that they have on hand. Failing to review a client’s history fully or medical and psychological charts can result in a lawsuit. It’s important for therapists to grasp the scope of the problem at hand fully. Although this can be a little bit on the subjective side, it can still be grounds for a malpractice lawsuit in many states.
Overstepping boundaries, even inadvertently, is a sure-fire way to get you into hot water with your clients and perhaps even land in a malpractice lawsuit. Boundary violations can come in many forms, including personal oversharing on the therapist’s part, inappropriate relationships or friendships with clients, choosing sides, or other breaches of conduct. If you’re unclear about whether or not something is ethical and above board, it’s best to avoid doing it.
Most of the time, therapists don’t intend upon overstepping boundaries, but it does occasionally happen by mistake.
How You Can Protect Yourself and Your Practice
There are several different things that you can do to protect yourself from malpractice lawsuits. Although these things can certainly help you out, they are by no means foolproof. You should still always have the proper insurance in case you are sued by a client.
Be Judicious When Choosing Clients
If you see any immediate red flags with clients, take them seriously. Sometimes our intuition tells us that something is seriously amiss with someone or a situation the second they come into our office. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have to take on every client that crosses your path. It’s a good idea to thoroughly vet clients to make sure that they’re ideal for you or your practice. If they’ve seen other therapists in the past, you can always ask for references as well.
Properly Manage Expectations
Talk to your clients about what they can reasonably expect from you and your practice. Make sure that expectations are put forward on both ends, so there are no misunderstandings or miscommunication. This will ensure that your clients know exactly what they will be getting from you and also establish proper boundaries right off the bat. It’s good to have your expectations written down and review them before therapy starts. You can ask the client or clients for their feedback and suggestions on how to make the most out of your sessions.
Keep lots of notes and make sure that everything is fully documented, especially if you’re dealing with a contentious situation where both parties have a different story. By properly documenting everything, you will be able to go back through your notes and reference things if the situation calls for it. Your notes will do more than just keep you safe from lawsuits; they can also help your clients feel more comfortable in your care because they know that you are meticulous.
Understand If Something Is Outside of Your Wheelhouse
Sometimes, there’s someone who is better equipped to handle certain situations. Understanding if something is outside of your wheelhouse is a great way to avoid lawsuits and take the best possible care of your clients. You should always refer clients to other colleagues if you feel that you can’t fit their needs. This helps you in three important ways: it shields you from getting in over your head, it helps your client, and it increases your professional standing. Failure to refer is a common reason for lawsuits in healthcare.
Considerations for Finding Good Professional Liability Insurance
Finding the best liability insurance can take a major burden off you and help you to feel more comfortable in your practice. Follow these few steps to determine which insurance is best for you.
Review Different Plans to Determine Which One Is Best for You
Check out a few different options to determine which plan suits your needs best. Understand the limits and deductibles offered so that you are comparing apples to apples. It’s a good idea to look at policies from several different companies. There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting the best plan for you:
- Size of your practice
- Number of clients
- Type of clients
- History of lawsuits
- How much your practice is projected to grow
Although you might spend a little bit more now, it will generally be worth it in the long run to get coverage that’s suitable for your needs and will not let you down. Although you may be surprised at how affordable a professional liability policy can be. It’s important to thoroughly and accurately assess your particular situation to figure out the right coverage for you. Spend a little time doing it and talk to a professional team that can guide you. It’s well worth all of the effort.
Make Sure the Company You Choose Is Reputable
Choose a reputable insurance company that has your back. The best companies offer excellent customer service, multiple insurance plans, and transparent, easy-to-understand coverage that allows you to practice with peace of mind. Look for flexible coverage that can be tailored to your company.
At NOW Insurance, we specialize in helping small and large providers get covered with the best possible professional liability insurance, and general liability for practice owners. Our mandate is to provide excellent customer service and flexible options that help you stay covered with minimal effort. Get a quote online in under 3 minutes with our quick and easy application.