Professional Liability Insurance
Questions & Answers
As of December 1, 2022, dental assistants must have their own professional liability insurance (PLI). They are currently covered by the policy we hold, which ends on November 30, 2022. To renew their Practice Permit, or to qualify for new registration for December 1, 2022, dental assistants must arrange their own PLI for their professional practice.
Use this Q & A to help you understand PLI and what you need to do to meet our requirements. If you have questions about insurance coverage details, please reach out to your insurance broker.
Who does the PLI requirement apply to?
Every regulated member of our College who has a valid practice permit (dental assistants) must have PLI. This applies regardless of the dental assistant’s role, title or practice environment, or whether the dental assistant provides services on a full-time, part-time, infrequent, or volunteer basis.
If you hold a valid practice permit, you must have PLI coverage.
What do I need to do and when?
You must arrange your own PLI coverage before you apply for a Practice Permit for 2023. It may be summer or fall before you can purchase a policy for December 1st.
Current dental assistants – You must provide proof of your PLI coverage when you apply to renew later this year. We’ll send a reminder closer to renewal time.
New applicants – If you are applying for dental assistant registration that begins December 1st or after, you must provide proof of your PLI coverage in your registration application.
What is PLI?
PLI is insurance coverage intended to protect a professional (the dental assistant) when a claim is made against them. The coverage protects the dental assistant against losses that may result from actual or alleged incidents where the dental assistant fails to meet expected standards and conduct. For example, unprofessional conduct, negligence, malpractice, mistakes/errors, or omissions.
PLI is also known as “errors and omissions insurance” or “malpractice insurance.”
Why do I need PLI?
It’s in the public interest for all regulated health care professionals to carry professional liability insurance. It offers the patient a source of protection or financial recourse should they suffer a loss due to some failure by a professional.
Carrying PLI is also in your interest as the insurance helps you by paying for your defense in dealing with the allegations, regardless of whether there are grounds for the allegations.
Additionally, the Dental Assistants Profession Regulation, sections 9 and 10(b), gives our College the authority to ask anyone who applies for registration, and current dental assistants, to provide proof of having the type and amount of PLI Council requires.
Isn’t the dentist responsible?
Dental assistants are regulated health care professionals who are responsible for their own practice. PLI covers errors, omissions or negligent acts, which may arise from the normal or usual services you provide. Without PLI you could be held personally liable for your actions or mistakes.
What type and amount of PLI do I need to have?
You must be able to prove that you hold your own individual PLI that meets the following criteria:
- name of the insured must be the same as the name of the person applying for registration/renewal;
- coverage is written on an occurrence form;
- insured for a minimum of at least two-million dollars ($2,000,000.00) per occurrence; and,
- annual aggregate limit is at least three million dollars ($3,000,000.00).
You must always have PLI coverage while you hold a valid practice permit. In other words, there can be no gaps in your coverage.
What is occurrence-based coverage and why do I need it?
An occurrence policy covers you for incidents that happen during your policy period, regardless of when a claim is made against you. This means if something happens during your policy period but isn’t reported until after your policy expires, your claim can still get covered.
Occurrence based coverage is different than coverage written on a claims-made form. Claims-made policies only cover you when an incident happens, and a claim is filed during your policy period. For losses or incidents that are filed after your policy expires, the insurance won’t cover you.
Why do I need to have my own PLI policy?
Your own PLI is a reliable way to make sure you are in control of the policy, and you have an insurance broker that has your best interest in mind. It also ensures your patients–and you–are covered any time you are providing professional services regardless of the day or time, or employer or volunteer agency.
Some employers may have policies that cover employees. However, most employer policies only cover the employee while they are engaged with the employer (policy holder) and that coverage would end as soon as the employer-employee relationship ends. This potentially leaves the public and the dental assistant without the benefits of PLI. It’s also possible for the employer to make changes to the PLI policy without the employee’s knowledge or input.
Another caution about employer coverage is it doesn’t typically include all the common coverages of an individual policy. For example, legal expenses associated with having to appear at a disciplinary hearing with a regulatory body; criminal defense costs; sexual abuse therapy of a person who, while a patient, suffered abuse during an insured person’s practice.
Where can I get PLI coverage?
Many insurance companies offer PLI. Though your PLI must be the type and amount Council requires, it’s up to you to choose who you purchase it from. We do suggest you use an insurance broker with expert knowledge in PLI. Insurance brokers work in the interest of their clients. When you purchase your own insurance, they work for you and provide insurance guidance and advice to help you.
These options may help get you started:
- Prolink – Canada’s Insurance Connection (https://prolink.insure/) is one option of an insurance company that offers PLI that meets our College’s PLI requirement. They hold our current PLI policy (which expires on November 30, 2022). Dental assistants covered by our PLI policy may extend that coverage by contacting Prolink and purchasing their own individual coverage.
- Association of Alberta Dental Assistants (http://www.rda-alberta.ca/) is one option of an association that offers a group plan that meets our College’s PLI requirement.
How much does PLI cost?
We understand that the premium can range significantly. For example, coverage under a group plan could cost a dental assistant about $50-$75 a year. Keep in mind that number may vary depending on your claims history, and the coverage limits and other endorsements you choose. If you go with an independent PLI policy (not a group plan) it could cost as much as $500 per year. Therefore, you need to check your options before buying.
The cost of PLI is economical when you compare the peace of mind with the alternative of being potentially liable for upwards of millions of dollars to cover defense costs and claim settlements.
Please note that we don’t set or negotiate insurance rates.
Will my renewal fees be less when PLI is no longer included?
Yes. Your Practice Permit renewal fee will be $18 less this year.
Why does it cost more to get my own insurance?
$18 is the amount we’ve been collecting from dental assistants to cover the cost of the PLI policy we hold. This fee is based on a group policy for over 6000 people. As we said above, we understand group plan fees could be around $50-$75 a year. The difference is because the insurance company isn’t guaranteed to have as many people.
What kinds of things should I consider when I get PLI?
Most PLI policies will only cover the professional services you provide as a dental assistant. If you provide services beyond those of a dental assistant, you may need more insurance coverage. Discuss your needs with your insurance broker.
Most PLI policies will only cover the professional services you provide within Canada. If you provide dental assisting services to patients or practice the profession outside of Canada, you should discuss this with your insurance broker.
Your coverage limits must meet the minimums set by the Council. However, you may want or need more coverage. Different employers and practice locations may require different insurance coverage. You may also want to consider things like risk and worst-case scenario for financial loss of a patient, or other party, if a claim is made against you. Discuss your needs with your insurance broker.
There are common policy exclusions like dishonesty and fraudulent acts. Each insurer’s policy may vary. You are responsible to ensure you get full and accurate information from your insurance broker about your PLI coverage.
What if I can’t get PLI because I live outside of Canada?
You will have to wait until you can meet the PLI requirement before applying for registration or Practice Permit renewal.
The Health Professions Act, sections 28(1)(c) and 40(1)(c), indicates you must show that you have the required amount and type of professional liability insurance when you apply for registration or renewal. Without PLI coverage, your application for registration or renewal is incomplete.
What PLI information will I have to provide to the College?
When you apply for registration or practice permit renewal, and any time we request it, you must provide proof of PLI coverage. Your proof must include:
- PLI policy number;
- name of the insured (must be the same as the name of the person applying for registration/renewal);
- address of the insured;
- policy period (start and end dates); and,
- coverage details that meet the College’s PLI requirements.
You may provide any of these as your proof of PLI coverage:
- a copy of the PLI policy certificate; or,
- written confirmation from the insurer; or,
- a completed PLI declaration form (use this Applicant’s Declaration: PLI Coverage form); or,
- proof of third-party PLI.
Can I submit my application for practice permit renewal before my PLI policy starts?
Yes, you can. You will need to provide proof that you have PLI coverage in effect for December 1st.
Can I submit my application for registration before my PLI policy starts?
That depends on when you are applying.
Normally, you must wait until you have PLI coverage in effect when you apply for registration because you must meet all registration requirements to be eligible to apply.
The exception is when you apply near the end of our Practice Permit year, which is December 1 through November 30. In November, we accept applications for registration that will take effect December 1st, but only if you won’t be practicing before December 1st. In this situation only, you can apply before your PLI policy starts. You will need to provide proof that you have PLI coverage in effect for December 1st.
Will I have to provide any specific claims information to the College?
You must report any finding of professional negligence made against you to the Registrar in writing and as soon as reasonably possible after the finding is made. This is required by the Health Professions Act section 127.1(3).
What if my PLI policy or insurance broker changes?
You must inform us in writing via the CADA Portal within fifteen (15) days of any changes to your PLI coverage. This includes name of insurer, policy period, policy number, coverage amounts or endorsements.
What will happen if I don’t notify the College of changes to my PLI?
If you fail to comply with any PLI requirement, the Registrar may refer your conduct to the Complaints Director.