Student Liability (Malpractice)
You have enough to concentrate on in school—your clinical experiences should be an exciting time filled with new challenges. Whether you are in an externship, preceptorship, working part-time or as a volunteer, the PLIT provides professional liability protection for students that have a sponsoring veterinarian. For only $10, you can secure the same amount of coverage as purchased by your sponsoring veterinarian*. And, once the $10 fee has been paid each calendar year, the AVMA PLIT will pay for subsequent student applications during the same calendar year. An application needs to be completed and eligibility requirements met prior to each clinical experience. Click here to download the application.
* Sponsoring veterinarian must have professional liability coverage through the AVMA PLIT.
Wages/Future Earnings can be Garnished
As a veterinary student, you may wonder whether or not you need coverage while you work at a clinic or participate in a preceptorship/externship program. The fact is you don’t need a degree to find yourself named in a lawsuit. If you are found to be negligent, and the party making the claim is awarded monetary damages, large debts or a lack of assets will not excuse you from being responsible for a judgment. If you do not have insurance to cover such a loss, the court could require you to provide restitution over a period of time through wage-garnishment (subject to state laws).
Secure Individual Professional Liability Coverage
The PLIT-sponsored professional liability policy provides valuable protection and defense for allegations made against employers for the actions of employees. However, employed veterinarians are not protected by the owner’s policy. Employed veterinarians must carry individual professional liability insurance for protection. The employer as part of a benefits package may pay for coverage for employed veterinarians. When the employer does not provide you with a professional liability policy in your name, you must obtain liability insurance. Your employer may purchase a professional liability policy from a commercial insurer covering all employed veterinarians. This coverage, however, will not follow you if veterinary services are provided outside your employed duties, such as relief, emergency or part-time work.
Related to the “consent to settle”, another common malpractice policy stipulation is the hammer clause. This means that if the insurance company recommends that you settle and you choose not to, you may be financially responsible for both legal expenses and judgments above the amount that the insurer could have settled the claim.
Consider this scenario: A defendant alleges that you were negligent and files suit. The demand is $75,000 for the value of the animal, emergency surgery and aftercare, and lost wages. Later, the demand is reduced to $25,000, and your insurance company recommends that you consent to settle the claim. You’re convinced however, that you met the standard of care, so you decline. The case goes to trial and the judgement is for $35,000. Because you refused to settle at $25,000 before the case went to trial, a hammer clause would stipulate that you are personally responsible for the additional $10,000 and legal expenses after the point of disagreeing with the insurance company’s recommendation.
Consent to Settle
The consent to settle clause in the PLIT-sponsored Professional Liability Insurance Policy DOES NOT CONTAIN A HAMMER CLAUSE. No claim will be settled without your consent or a court order. This protects your reputation and discourages frivolous lawsuits. It’s common for insurance companies to have the final decision to defend or settle malpractice allegations. So, if a client is unhappy with a procedure outcome and demands $500 to ‘go away’, the insurance company has the right to defend or settle on behalf of the insured veterinarian. Being accused of veterinary malpractice is a threat to your reputation and career. The PLIT-sponsored Professional Liability Policy contains a “consent to settle” clause, which means that the insurance company cannot settle a claim without your written consent. The “consent to settle” provision is critical to defend your reputation and discourage frivolous lawsuits. Most insurance companies will settle unfounded claims simply because it is less costly than providing a defense regardless of your liability or your wishes.
With this unique benefit in the PLIT-sponsored Program, you decide if the claim and your reputation will be defended.
“What if I were Dr. A?” If you are working with horses or food production animals, what is the highest value of a horse you might treat, or the value of an entire food production unit or its lost earnings? Also consider the potential for human injury. Could you pay out-of-pocket the cost of a client’s medical bills to cover a serious injury? What if a client permanently loses the function of a hand as a result of a cat bite; if a horse kicks a client; if a food supply is contaminated by inappropriate recommendations; or if an accidental human death occurs? PLIT-sponsored liability limits are available up to $6,000,000 per claim and up to $8,000,000 annually.
Could you imagine someone unfamiliar with veterinary care reviewing malpractice allegations and handling claims on your behalf? This may be the case when coverage is secured through a local agent. You may be the only veterinarian the agent insures!
In the PLIT-sponsored Program, veterinarian Trust Representatives review every malpractice allegation submitted. And, the claims adjusters and insurance professionals are seasoned experts of the PLIT-sponsored Program and work on your behalf to protect your assets and reputation.
Court Costs and Fees for Defense Attorneys
Legal fees can be costly, so investigate if these expenses are included in your malpractice limits or in addition to your primary limits. Consider that claims in the legal system may take years to resolve and if legal fees deplete your policy limits, you are personally responsible thereafter. In the PLIT-sponsored Program, court costs and fees for defense attorneys provided by the insurer are covered in addition to policy limits.
The “standard of care” is key to malpractice allegations. When a client questions your professional decisions and files a lawsuit, who will review your standard of care? Who will testify on your behalf? In the PLIT-sponsored Program, the insurance company works with the PLIT Trust Representatives and Trustees to identify expert veterinarian witnesses for PLIT claims. When appropriate, the insurance company designates expert witnesses on your behalf.
Part-time, Emergency, Volunteer, and Relief Work
Is your coverage location specific? If so, you are not covered for activities outside your place of employment. The PLIT-sponsored policy will protect you wherever you legally practice, so you don’t have to worry about securing coverage for part-time, relief, emergency, or volunteer work.