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General Liability Coverage for the Physician and Dentist—What is It, How Does it Work, How is it Different from other coverages?


We hear questions from our medical and dental practices concerning general liability insurance, namely what is it, why do I need it, what does it cover, and does it duplicate other coverage? The following attempts to answer these questions about general liability insurance for the medical and dental practice.

  • What does general liability insurance cover? General liability insurance for the medical and dental practice is different from professional liability insurance. It is generally part of a medical or dental commercial package policy. General liability insurance covers the healthcare practice and the healthcare professional for claims of bodily injury or property damage. Legal defense, non-monetary losses suffered by the injured party, compensatory damages, and punitive damages are generally covered by the medical or dental general liability policy. Basic coverages include:
    1. Bodily injury and property damage liability: if someone is injured on the medical or dental premises or if someone’s property is damaged on the premises and caused by the physician or his employees, the general liability policy responds.
    2. Personal and advertising injury liability: If the physician or dentist or an employee commits libel, slander, disparagement, or advertising infringement in the course of medical or dental business, this coverage applies.
    3. Medical expenses: Pays medical bills if someone is injured on the physician or dental practice premises and needs medical care. This coverage applies regardless of fault.
    4. Premises and operations liability: Claims for bodily injury or property damage arising out of medical or dental operations.
    5. Damage to Premises Rented to You: If a physician or dentist rents or leases his medical or dental space, this provision protects if he causes damage to that property, such as by fire or other covered loss.
  • Why do I as a physician or dentist need general liability insurance coverage? No physician or dentist ever anticipates having a claim. But accidents happen, visitors to a practice are injured, and general liability insurance is relatively inexpensive. It only takes one incident on the medical or dental office property to stress the physician or dentist’s financial security and emotional well-being. The physician or dentist may keep a well-appointed, neat, efficient office but, accidents still happen and people will expect to be compensated for damages.

    If the physician or dentist is sued for a liability claim, the cost of defense could be as high as a potential judgment. General liability insurance pays for defense and also covers any settlement award, up to the limits of liability specified by the policy.

    Many medical or dental practices have contracts that require them to carry general liability insurance. Banks also require general liability coverage in order to receive a loan.

    General liability exposures are excluded under the physician or dental professional liability policy.

  • How much general liability coverage does a physician or dentist need? This is the most common question we are asked by our physician and dental clients. Of course, the answer is somewhat ambiguous. The physician or dentist should consider the litigious environment in his or her locale, his exposed assets, the type of practice he is in, and the perceived risk associated with it. We like to say that no physician or dentist regretted having too much insurance at the time of a loss. For a small business or practice with less risk, the general liability coverage is usually bundled together with the property insurance to form a Professional Office Policy, or POP.
  • What if the general liability coverage on a medical or dental policy is not enough? We encourage our physician and dental clients to also purchase an excess liability policy, or umbrella policy, to give them higher liability limits for a nominal cost. If a physician or dentist is sued for a large amount, the underlying general liability policy will pay first and then the umbrella coverage will kick in. The umbrella coverage only goes over the general liability policy of a physician or dentist. It does not apply to professional liability insurance.

For a more detailed explanation of general liability coverage, or for a quote, kindly call us at 1-800-272-6055 or 561-276-6055.

Barbara Gracey Backer


Barbara Gracey Backer is the Vice-President of Gracey-Backer, Inc., an Insurance Agency in Delray Beach, Florida specializing in All Lines of Professional and Personal Insurance. She may be contacted at 800-272-6055 X118 or at barbara@gbifl.com.

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