As of 2017, students enrolled in CAAHEP accredited ultrasound programs are required to purchase professional liability insurance for sonographers. The insurance provides students the assurance that claims made against them are covered in the event of an accident and/or negligence while participating in clinical training or delivering services to patients. It is important to understand what the insurance covers to ensure adequate coverage is purchased. Policies are purchased through the program, SDMS or a private insurance company.
Importance of Professional Liability Insurance for Sonographers
Getting professional liability insurance coverage is often quite easy while enrolled in any of the CAAHEP accredited sonography programs. Many of the sonography schools and programs purchase a student blanket professional liability insurance policy. The blanket policies are paid for via a student health insurance fee that is paid with other fees.
There are also ultrasound technology schools and programs that require students to find and purchase their own professional liability insurance. A good place to start shopping is with the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (SDMS). The organization offers insurance that includes liability and coverage of defense costs. There are also private insurance companies selling student professional liability insurance, and a simple Google search will direct students to multiple companies offering professional liability insurance for students.
The importance of having adequate insurance coverage cannot be overstated. The healthcare industry is highly regulated, and the very nature of healthcare work makes it susceptible to lawsuits.
Professional Liability Insurance Coverage
In the medical field, professional liability insurance is also called medical malpractice insurance. This is not true in all industries.
Following are the types of events covered in a policy offering medical malpractice for sonographers:
- Violation of good faith
- Giving inaccurate advice
The insurance policy will cover a sonographer’s defense should someone take legal action in the belief the student was negligent or caused harm to a patient in some manner, like giving poor advice or causing accidental injury of a patient. Student policies may include some or all of the following:
- Professional liability coverage with a $1 million per claim limit and a stated aggregate limit amount such as $3 million or $6 million
- Legal defense costs to defend against a claim with amount in addition to liability limits
- Deposition representation expense with an aggregate limit
- Assault coverage with an aggregate limit
- Damage to property of others
- Personal injury coverage
Though the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program may cover sonography students with a blanket policy, student and ultrasound technologists have the right to purchase additional insurance on their own. Students and professionals need to read the fine print of the coverage to make sure there is a clear understanding of what is covered.
Claims-Made or Occurrence Coverage?
It is important to keep two terms in mind while shopping for insurance: occurrence coverage and claims-made coverage.
Occurrence coverage is insurance that covers an event at any time but only as long as the event occurred during the policy period. It does not matter if the policy was allowed to lapse at the end of the coverage period.
The claims-made coverage only covers events that occur during the policy period and within a predetermined extended reporting period (requires purchase of Extended Coverage Reporting Period).
Assume a policy period runs from January 1 to December 31, and the policy is allowed to lapse. The sonographer is sued in the following year for an incident that occurred during the policy period. If occurrence coverage was purchased, the insurance company will respond to the claim. If claims-made coverage was purchased, and the policy is no longer in effect, the incident is not covered.
Student liability insurance for sonographers provides important legal coverage. It also offers peace of mind should something go wrong. No one likes to think about the possibility of making a serious mistake or acting negligently. However, errors are a fact of life, and that is why sonography programs require all students to purchase coverage. After graduation, the professional sonographer will purchase an insurance policy that includes additional coverage such as license protection.