a. Why do I need Professional Liability Insurance?
Professional liability insurance protects social workers if they are sued for malpractice. Social workers need protection from frivolous lawsuits and from legal action due to negligent acts, errors and omissions that can arise from their practices. These lawsuits may even arise years later, after the alleged event took place.
Without insurance, you could spend precious time and resources defending yourself, regardless of whether there is any merit to the claim. Professional liability insurance provides you with experienced legal defense and coverage for settlements or damages.
The NASW-Endorsed Professional Liability Insurance Program covers you for other specific risks, including supplemental liability for clients tripping and falling in your private office, and legal counsel for a licensing board complaint or administrative hearing.
b. If I receive liability insurance through my employer/agency/school, do I still need individual coverage?
Social workers covered under the professional liability policy of their employer, agency or school also need their own individual coverage. Employer coverage does not necessarily protect you individually from risk and you may be liable for your own negligence. Employers may require you to reimburse them for damages they pay on your behalf, or their insurance may be inadequate.
Like it or not, large organizations such as schools and agencies may find it necessary to focus on their organizational needs first, and not on the needs of the individual social worker. For example, social workers covered by organizational policies are unlikely to be provided their own defense team to look out for their interests and careers. Your employer may also have the right to consent to settlement rather than defend your interests.
Also, if you leave your employer, it may be questionable whether you would still be covered under their policy. Purchasing your own professional liability insurance means you’ll still be covered, even if you change jobs.