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Monthly Archives: February 2014

How Are Defense Costs Handled by a Physician and Surgeon Malpractice Insurance Company in Florida?


One of the most overlooked features of a medical malpractice insurance policy is how the company handles the cost of defense—the cost of lawyers, court fees, and trial fees when a case is taken to court. Sometimes, in an effort to cut costs, insurance companies can tweak this important coverage. The physician is the one hurt in the event of a large claim.

I would first like to explain what it means to have defense costs inside or outside the limit of liability. When we mention the limit of liability, we mean the limit of liability that is noted on the declarations page of the medical malpractice insurance policy. So, if a physician or surgeon in Florida has policy limits of $250,000 per occurrence/$750,000 aggregate, it means that, for one claim the medical malpractice insurance company is going to pay a maximum of $250,000. In one year, the total amount the medical malpractice insurance company in Florida will pay for all medical malpractice claims is $750,000.

In this case, it is obviously very important to determine whether the defense costs are paid inside or outside the limit of liability. If defense costs are paid inside the limit, and the cost of defending the doctor is $100,000, that physician now has only $150,000 available to pay a judgment or settlement. If the defense costs are paid outside the limit of liability on the medical malpractice insurance policy, the full $250,000 is available to pay a judgment and the $100,000 in lawyer fees, investigation expenses, defense and appeal expenses will not erode the physician’s limit of liability.

At first glance, this difference may not seem important. But if you were faced with a large claim, defense costs can add up very quickly and you could find yourself with no money left to pay a judgment or settlement of additional claims. Once the liability limits have been used up, your medical malpractice insurance company has no further obligation to pay any claim, judgment or claim expense or to defend or continue to defend you.

So, when purchasing or renewing your medical malpractice insurance in Florida, review it carefully with your agent to be sure defense costs are outside the limit of liability. This small difference could spell the difference between success or failure of your practice.

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.

Why Does a Dentist in Florida need a Dental Malpractice Insurance Broker?


At the risk of sounding self-serving, we would like to tell you why we think you as a Florida dentist should employ the services of a Dental Malpractice Insurance Agent or Broker when buying or renewing his or her Dental Malpractice Insurance.

For a Florida Dentist, the process of choosing your dental malpractice insurance may sound simple. After all, it is only a promise to protect you in the event of a claim. You think you may never use it. It probably sits on the shelf in your office collecting dust—until the day you need it. And then, it is the most important document you have. If you are contacted by a Plaintiff Attorney, you will be very glad that you had help choosing the right policy with the best company for you. The decision which seemed simple is now complex. A quality dental malpractice insurance agent can help you find the right dental malpractice insurance company and renew with the right company, year after year. After all, the market changes, and what is best for you today may not be best for you ten years from now.

A dental malpractice insurance agent or broker customarily represents several dental malpractice insurance companies in Florida. He or she knows them well. He goes to their meetings. He talks with their underwriters probably on a daily basis. He works that relationship to negotiate coverage and price for you. And, if you have a problem, your agent can be your advocate with the company.

Some carriers tout the fact that they can save you premium dollars by going direct to you, thereby bypassing the insurance broker. This sounds like a good idea, until the dentist looks beneath the surface. These carriers often have management companies and bulky staffs to handle the work of the agent or broker. They do not “shop” your dental malpractice insurance policy every year to give you the option of going with a better or less expensive dental malpractice insurance company. And, if their product is inferior, you will never know it because you have given up your option to compare.

For example, while a particular carrier may not be the cheapest one in the marketplace, it often has features that more than make up for its higher premium over the long term. It may have risk management credits, which enable you to reduce your premium while helping to avoid a claim in the first place. It may give hefty credits for excellent loss experience. It may be able to attract the best attorneys in Florida because of its reputation and experience. Its policy might be rich in added features, coverages which may spell the difference between success or failure of your practice. A dental malpractice insurance broker knows these things, and can guide you to the right company for you.
A broker or agent can also look out for potential pitfalls in a dental malpractice insurance policy: a demand rather that an incident trigger, defense costs outside rather than inside the limits of liability, assessments in the event of excessive losses, or lack of protection by the Florida Guaranty Fund. There are many potholes out there that could snag a dentist without assistance from a professional.

A broker also knows the factors to look for when choosing a dental malpractice insurance company: its reputation, its rating, its stability, its history in Florida, its customer satisfaction ratings, tail provisions, and other factors that would be difficult for a dentist to determine on his own.

The best part of all this is that the services of a Dental Malpractice Insurance agent or broker do not cost you a thing. Brokers are paid by the insurance company. Brokers and agents bring companies their clients. If the company is not competitive, the broker will go to another dental malpractice insurance company. So, a broker is someone who performs the research, does the shopping, negotiates the premiums for you but is paid by the dental malpractice insurance company for bringing them their customers. It is truly a win/win situation for you, the valued Florida dentist.

Why Does a Physician or Surgeon in Florida need a Medical Malpractice Insurance Broker?


At the risk of sounding self-serving, we would like to tell you why we think you should go through a Medical Malpractice Insurance Agent or Broker when purchasing or renewing your medical malpractice insurance in Florida.

It may sound like a simple process—choosing your malpractice insurance. After all, it is only a promise to protect you. Your policy sits on the shelf gathering dust—until you need it. And then, it is vital that you are insured with the right company with the right policy. The decision which seemed simple is now complex. A quality medical malpractice insurance agent can help you find the right company and renew with the right company, year after year.
A medical malpractice insurance agent or broker customarily represents several medical malpractice insurance carriers. He or she has a relationship with them and can negotiate coverage and price on your behalf. They know the underwriters intimately. They can be your advocate if there is a problem.

Some carriers tout the fact that they can save you money by bypassing the insurance agent. That sounds tempting, until you look below the surface. These carriers often have management companies and bulky staffs to handle the work of the agent or broker. They do not “shop” your policy every year to give you the option of going with a better or less expensive malpractice insurance company. And, if their product is inferior, you will never know it because you have lost your ability to compare.

For example, while a particular carrier may not be the cheapest out there, it often has features that more than make up for its higher premium over the long term. It may have risk management credits, which enable you to reduce your premium while helping to avoid a claim in the first place. It may have a dividend plan or a profit sharing plan, to put money away for your retirement. It may be able to attract the best attorneys in Florida because of its reputation and experience. A broker knows these things, and can guide you to the right company for you.

A broker or agent can also look out for potential pitfalls in a medical malpractice insurance policy: a demand rather that an incident trigger, defense costs outside rather than inside the limits of liability, assessments in the event of excessive losses, or lack of protection by the Florida Guaranty Fund. There are many potholes out there that could snag a physician or surgeon without help.

A broker also knows the factors to look for when choosing a medical malpractice insurance company: its reputation, its rating, its stability, its history in Florida, its customer satisfaction ratings, tail provisions, and other factors that would be difficult to determine on one’s own.

The best part of all this is that the services of a Medical Malpractice Insurance agent or broker do not cost you a thing. Brokers are paid by the insurance company. Brokers and agents bring companies their clients. If the company is not competitive, the broker will go to another insurer. So, a broker is someone who does the research, shopping, premium negotiating for you, but is paid by the medical malpractice insurance company for bringing them their customers. It is truly a win/win situation for you, the valued customer.

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.

Workers Compensation Compliance


We have recently had a number of Physician, Oral Surgeons and Dentists offices call us in a panic due to a visit from a Compliance Investigator with the Division of Workers Compensation, Bureau of Compliance asking to see a copy of their Workers Compensation policy.

The Compliance Investigator has the authority of issue a Stop-Work order, ceasing all business operations if the employer lacks the required Florida Workers Compensation coverage. In addition, they will assess a penalty equal to 1.5 times the amount the employer would have paid in premium within the preceding three year period.

In all cases we were able to bind coverage for the Doctor/Dentist office the same day we received their call to avoid any unneccesary penalties or stop work orders.

We would like to remind you that if you have 4 or more employees (managing members and corporate officers are used in the count) you are required by law to have Worker’s Compensation Insurance. The investigators do random visits so it is urgent for you to carry this coverage if you are required by statute. Even if you have less than the mandated 4 employee count we highly recommend that you purchase the coverage since it not only protects your employees, it protects employers as well from lawsuits that could result from an injured employee.

The premium is affordable; at $.46 per $100 of payroll and depending on the total premium, you may be eligible for a dividend program which would reduce the premium.

In addition, there is a notice requirement within the statute for offices with fewer than four employees.

440.055  Notice requirements.–An employer who employs fewer than four employees, who is permitted by law to elect not to secure payment of compensation under this chapter, and who elects not to do so shall post clear written notice in a conspicuous location at each worksite directed to all employees and other persons performing services at the worksite of their lack of entitlement to benefits under this chapter.

For more information regarding Workers Compensation or Non-Compliance Violations, please feel free to call us or visit the State of Florida’s Workers Compensation website at: http:/www.myfloridacfo.com/WC

We are here to serve your insurance needs and provide you timely information to help your business grow and stay strong.

Deborah Vashon, CPCU


Deborah Vashon, CPCU leads the Commercial Lines Department of Gracey-Backer, Inc., an Insurance Agency in Delray Beach, Florida specializing in All Lines of Professional and Personal Insurance for the Healthcare Provider. She may be contacted at 800-272-6055, ext 119, or at debbie@gbifl.com.

If you have a potential dental malpractice claim, do you report it to your dental malpractice insurance company or not?


Dentists in Florida often hesitate to report a potential claim to their dental malpractice insurance company. They are either afraid that their malpractice insurance policy will be cancelled or they fear losing their claims-free credits. They may be concerned about their reputation or their ability to find work. We certainly understand a dentist’s reluctance to report a potential claim to his malpractice insurance carrier. In spite of this, we strongly encourage him to report it. A quality dental malpractice insurance policy is written with an “incident trigger”, meaning that the company will defend any incidents reported to it during the policy term. This applies even if the dentist has moved to another dental malpractice insurance carrier, has dropped his coverage, or is retired.

Most dental malpractice insurance policies require that the insured dentist report incidents that are reasonably expected to lead to a claim and must report the incident in a timely manner. Of course, the definition of what is “reasonably” expected to lead to a claim is vague. They still need to err on the side of reporting it. The dental malpractice insurance policy goes on to require that the insured not engage in conduct that prejudices the company’s ability to defend a claim. Failure by the dentist to give timely notice to the carrier could well be seen as prejudicing the claim.

If the patient of a dentist makes comments that would cause the dentist to believe a claim could result, the company should be notified. If a patient requests records following an unintended outcome, this could raise a red flag. Certainly, if the insured dentist receives a request for records from a plaintiff attorney’s office in connection with a bad outcome, a red flag is raised and the dentist should report the incident to the dental malpractice insurance carrier right away.

We have seen cases where the dental malpractice insurance carrier has been able to help the dentist avoid a claim if contacted immediately following an adverse outcome. The defense team in the claims department is skilled in helping the dentist secure the best possible outcome. Often, this simply involves interacting with the patient in an empathetic, responsible, timely manner.

Of course, there is a downside to reporting all incidents that could theoretically lead to an actual claim. Too much reporting could jeopardize a dentist’s ability to keep quality coverage. If he is non-renewed by a dental malpractice insurance carrier, it will be difficult for him to secure coverage in the standard market.

It is best to call our office and discuss your particular situation with an experienced dental malpractice insurance agent.

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