Should Pharmacists Carry Professional Liability Insurance?

APRIL 23, 2015
Benjamin S. Barnhart

When speaking with pharmacists, this question often comes up: “Should I carry personal professional liability insurance to protect myself in the event of an unintentional error or related lawsuit?”

Between the busy, fast-paced working conditions and the sheer amount of prescriptions being processed, the heightened possibility for error is certainly a viable concern for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

Why do I need professional liability insurance?
No pharmacist goes to work assuming they will cause a patient harm. Nor does a pharmacist go to work expecting to be responsible for a prescription error. Yet, accidents do happen, which is why being adequately covered for such professional liabilities is so important.

Doesn't my employer already have this type of insurance?
While it is not mandated, it is the opinion of some professionals that any employee involved in some sort of dispensing function should carry additional liability coverage. Surely, your employer already carries a policy that would cover you while working for them. However, it could be advantageous to not rely solely on your employer’s coverage to protect yourself from a claim.

Why do I need more than my employer's coverage?
Most professional liability policies provided by employers do not offer sufficient coverage in the event of malpractice. Often, you are only protected for work occurring at the pharmacy, so your employer’s policy won’t extend coverage for volunteering or other part-time work. A malpractice claim could lead to a lawsuit, which could cost you thousands of dollars in legal fees out of pocket if you do not have enough protection.

How do most policies work?
The aim of a liability policy is to ensure that if a claim is filed against you, you are protected—whether it be in court or at work. Some policies will cover attorney fees and other legal expenses, pay you for lost wages while taking time off work to defend yourself, and even offer reimbursement for licensing board issues.

What should I look for in a good policy?
A few years ago, pharmacist and lawyer Kenneth Baker shared advice about purchasing pharmacy liability insurance, which was:

  • Buy insurance from an agent who will explain the policy and is familiar with the pharmacy profession.
  • Look for “who is insured” (usually found in the liability section under definitions)
  • Look for “what is insured” (usually found in the professional liability endorsement “coverage” section or under “coverage” in the policy)
  • Find out how coverage is provided. The pharmacy’s policy should say it is “primary,” so that it covers employees before their individual policies; a professional liability policy for an individual pharmacist or pharmacy technician should say that is “secondary” or “excess” coverage.

Imagining the unimaginable
Carrying professional liability insurance does not need to be deemed entirely selfish. In the case of a lawsuit, such a policy would ensure not only that you are protected in the event of a mistake, but also those you affected have a better chance of full coverage for any medical expenses and other damages incurred from your error.

Making a mistake is every pharmacist’s constant concern, especially as the pressure to fill prescriptions quicker than the competition continues to mount. Discussing the possibility of error can be unsettling, as no pharmacist plans to make a mistake that could hurt someone. However, that is the nature of insurance: to imagine the unimaginable.

About the author

Benjamin S. Barnhart is a financial consultant at QOLity Financial, an independent financial services firm based in Utica, Michigan. As an LPL financial advisor, he works with clients around the country, concentrating on comprehensive retirement planning, portfolio management, and tax planning.


Important disclosures
 
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide or be construed as providing specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.



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