Do I need E&O insurance?

September 12, 2008

I was told by my malpractice carrier that I am not covered for the charges of defamation, and other charges that were brought against me. It was suggested that I should carry a separate errors and omissions (E&O) policy which is inexpensive, and would protect me in the future, but am unsure as to where to go to purchase an E&O policy to protect me from this happening again.

Q:

I am a medical review officer and was recently sued by an individual who tested positive in my office for breath alcohol, and was subsequently terminated from his position as a school bus driver. The plaintiff dropped the case after his deposition was taken, but not before I incurred significant legal expense. I was told by my malpractice carrier that I am not covered for the charges of defamation, and other charges that were brought against me. I was suggested that I should carry a separate errors and omissions (E&O) policy which is inexpensive, and would protect me in the future. Other sources I have read stated that some physicians have been forced to file suit against their carrier to force the coverage. I would prefer to let the present situation serve as a lesson learned, but am unsure as to where to go to purchase an E&O policy to protect me from this happening again.

A: The answer to this question depends upon the language of the policy that was issued to the physician. Some policies include coverage for defamation, others specifically exclude it.  As for E&O insurance, the doctor should contact his insurance broker to discuss not only obtaining E&O coverage, but to also evaluate the scope and level of insurance he currently maintains. My suspicion is that the physician may have purchased insurance directly, rather than through a broker. A good broker should have explained the scope of coverage and the availability of additional coverage to the physician at the time of purchase. Certainly the broker should have been involved if there was a coverage dispute with the carrier. 

The author is a health law attorney with Kern Augustine Conroy & Schoppman in Bridgewater, New Jersey, Lake Success, New York, and Philadelphia. He can be reached by e-mail atkern@drlaw.com.

The answers to these queries are general opinions and are not intended as substitutes for legal advice. You should not rely on these replies in making decisions involving questions of law, but should instead consult with competent legal counsel.