Should Dental Hygienists Get Liability Insurance?

It is an unfortunate side effect of working in a healthcare profession that the public has higher-than-average expectations where your services are concerned. People hold those in medical fields to high standards because they are imbuing them with a great amount of trust. After all, you hold the health of every patient in your hands, and even simple dental procedures, if done wrong, can lead to very serious health issues. As a dental hygienist, you might not be too worried about liability issues because the buck stops with the dentist you work for; he/she is the one responsible for checking your work and making determinations about further care. But you should know that insurance companies and courts don't always see it that way, which could leave you out of a job or on the hook for some major expenses associated with litigation.

The question is whether or not hygienists need to get liability insurance and there are a few issues to consider before deciding. The first is the practice you work for. In most cases, dental offices will carry a high level of insurance in order to protect themselves in the event of lawsuits. And office employees will necessarily be covered since they are in contact with patients. However, you should ask your employer to apprise you of the terms of coverage. In some cases it will provide significant provisions for the dentist or the practice in general, but not for specific positions within the office (read: you and other hygienists). It may only cover a settlement, for example, leaving you holding the bag for your own legal representation, lost wages, and any cost required to deal with a licensing board (should the issue arise). This is bad news for you, especially if you don't have some kind of gap coverage of your own to address these expenses.

So that's one good reason you may want to secure liability insurance. Of course, the fact that you work in a high-risk profession is another. Okay, so generally speaking you won't face the same types of liability issues as, say, a cardiac surgeon or a neurologist (or even an anesthesiologist). But patients might get mad enough to sue if you should overlook an infection that leads to more serious medical issues, or even if you cut their gums during a simple cleaning (anyone can hire personal injury lawyer, even for seemingly inconsequential slip-ups). Whenever you are dealing with patient health issues there is always the possibility that a malpractice situation could occur and you need to prepare for this by seeing that you're properly insured against liability claims.

Of course, there is an ongoing expense associated with any type of insurance, so if you are well covered by the policy your dental practice holds you may want to skip the additional costs. But considering how many legal practices are out there touting "no win no fee lawyers" that will take on personal injury cases pro bono, even a small miscalculation could land you in hot water. So it behooves you to exercise personal responsibility in keeping with your industry requirements and secure the liability coverage that will protect you should you ever face charges of negligence or malpractice.

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