Social work isn’t one of those professions most people associate with lawsuits. After all, social workers are there to help people, so it seems unlikely on the surface that they’d be sued. However, malpractice lawsuits can happen to social workers, too. So below we’ll look at the scenarios where social work malpractice insurance comes into play, more on what it is, and where you can find it.
- Why Do Social Workers Need Malpractice Insurance?
- What is Social Work Malpractice Insurance?
- How Much does Social Work Malpractice Insurance Cost?
- Where to Find Social Work Malpractice Insurance
Why Do Social Workers Need Malpractice Insurance?
Lawsuits can happen in any profession, including social work. According to Social Work Today, social workers could be subpoenaed as part of custody battles. Those who provide consultation or supervision could also be at risk for a lawsuit.
Social work insurer NASW Assurance Services lists social work malpractice insurance as a type of professional liability insurance. Malpractice insurance, as a whole, protects you when you face legal action because of negligent acts or perceived and actual errors or omissions on your part. If someone thought a social worker failed to provide adequate services or feels that social worker gave poor counseling, that social worker could be at risk for a lawsuit.
Social Work Today also lists some unfortunate times when social workers have been sued. For instance, a lawsuit can happen when a client commits suicide and family members feel the social worker did not adequately follow procedure to prevent it.
Another social worker was sued when they mistakenly released client information during a custody battle. Two of the social worker’s clients were going through a divorce, and one parent had their attorney subpoena social work records on the other parent in hopes that they could get negative information to be used in the custody battle. The social worker released them, not knowing the NASW Code of Ethics, stating that records could only be released upon obtaining permission of the person the records were on or court order.
It’s no secret that social workers are under constant heavy caseloads. So even the most well-meaning of social workers could simply overlook a code. Or in worst cases, a client could come to harm, despite the best efforts of the social worker, and someone could claim damages. Social work malpractice insurance can help protect against these cases.
What is Social Work Malpractice Insurance?
According to insurer Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO), social work malpractice insurance gives you legal representation and indemnity coverage if you are named in a lawsuit.
It’s common to see coverage from up to $1 million for each occurrence and $3 million for an annual aggregate. Some of the other benefits you may find on a plan include:
- License protection: In the case that you need to defend your license to the state board
- Defendant expense benefit: Covers lost wages and expense as the trial progresses
- Deposition representation: Covers you for costs if you must testify on a case you are not named on
- Personal liability coverage: For claims that happen at your home unrelated to work
- Defense attorney may be provided
Plans could also have coverage for other issues like assault, personal injury, medical payments, damage to property, sexual misconduct, coverage for HIPAA violation fines and expenses from rendering first aid.
Another important part of social work malpractice insurance is that it can come as occurrence or claims-made. Occurrence covers you when the malpractice event happens during specified active dates and is not tied to when the claim is made. Claims-made covers you as long the claim and the malpractice event happen within specific dates.
A main benefit of buying your own policy is that it is portable, like HPSO’s policies. So if you move, change jobs, volunteer or have a second job, you have coverage. You also have additional coverage in case an employer does not offer enough coverage.
How Much does Social Work Malpractice Insurance Cost?
We are able to get a quote from HPSO or Healthcare Providers Service Organization, a popular insurance provider for healthcare workers. A malpractice insurance policy for a self-employed clinical social worker in Florida who is not a recent graduate is $370 a year or $31 a month.
If the person is employed, the annual premium is quoted at $151 a year only. And if the person is a recent graduate, ie. in the past 12 months, the quote is only $63 a year.
Where to Find Social Work Malpractice Insurance
You have a few options when it comes to finding this type of insurance. They include:
- Going through an independent agency or brokerage company, like Trusted Choice or Embroker
- Finding a general plan for professional liability insurance through companies like the Hartford and Hiscox
- Finding specific products for social workers from places like NASW Assurance Services or HPSO.
- Looking for social work insurance through professional social work associations, like the Clinical Social Work Association, which offers a plan from CPH and associates
The preferred method for this very specialized product might be to find the specialized social worker products, since the insurance needs of social workers are very particular to the profession.
While social workers aren’t known for attracting high-profile lawsuits, that doesn’t mean the profession is risk-free. Someone could still claim damages from misconduct or errors and omissions. That’s where it makes sense to find social work malpractice insurance. You can find a general professional liability plan or products specific to social workers.