20 Mar Business Insurance Coverage: Information for Dentists
As you make plans to either close or transition your office during this time, here are some suggested steps to developing a thorough business response plan:
Gather copies of all Insurance Policies
Relevant policies purchased from the Indiana Dental Association Insurance Services (IDAIS) could include:
- General Liability: Most standard commercial property policies include “business income “or “business interruption” coverage. This type of coverage typically applies when a covered “cause of loss” triggers a slowdown or suspension of operations. So, the existence of business interruption coverage for a COVID-19 caused slowdown or suspension depends on whether communicable diseases can be characterized as a covered “cause of loss.” Most often, a covered “cause of loss” is defined to include only direct physical loss or damage like a hurricane or fire. However, every policy is different and others contain language or endorsements that modify standard coverages. Even under traditional insurance policies, there are circumstances where coverage may still be available. For instance, actual contamination of physical property (like telephones, HVAC systems, etc.) may be a direct physical loss. Additionally, most policies have separate coverage that is triggered when a civil order prohibits access to a property or building. Even if you have doubts about your eligibility for coverage, continue to document all losses you experience during this time, as it may be covered under another policy.
- Employment Practices Liability: With employee reductions, layoffs, and furloughs resulting from shutdowns, there will likely be an increase in retaliation and wrongful termination claims brought by terminated employees. You should gather and review these policies in preparation for any potential litigation.
- Workers’ Compensation: Workers’ compensation insurance is designed to compensate employees injured during the course and scope of their employment. For example, if a healthcare worker is exposed to COVID-19 or a salesperson is required to travel overseas and becomes infected by the virus. While highly unlikely, the coronavirus could be considered an occupational disease under certain circumstances. Worker’s compensation statutes generally provide that an employee is entitled to benefits for “occupational diseases” but typically exclude “ordinary diseases of life” (i.e., those to which the general public is equally exposed). However, if an employee can establish a direct causal connection to the workplace, there may be a valid argument for worker’s compensation coverage. The key is to confirm it is a workplace exposure and not a general life exposure.
In the dental practice setting, mitigate your employees’ exposure to the virus by practicing infection control, social distancing, and appropriate hygiene. In addition, the ADA has recommended that dental offices only see patients who require emergency care, which it defines as “potentially life threatening [issues which] require immediate treatment to stop ongoing tissue bleeding.” In addition, dental practices should take precautions and follow any additional OSHA and State department of health guidelines prescribed during this time.
Identify Potential coverage categories under the above provisions
- Document everything. Keep a detailed account of all losses you experience during this pandemic including (but not limited to) lost revenue, expenses, and other costs.
- Review your rights and responsibilities to give prompt notice of claims. Many of the above policies are “claims made” policies, which require that your company make a claim during the appropriate period. Your practice should give notice of a claim before the policies expire, while documenting any and all correspondence you may have with your provider.
For additional information on business response planning during the COVID-19 outbreak, see the following articles:
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