Most professionals know what it’s like to occasionally lie awake at night worrying about mistakes. As professionals, we have great pride in our work—and take seriously our client’s trust in us.
Professional negligence lawsuits are nightmare scenarios. However, as a matter of law, doctors, lawyers, dentists, engineers and other regulated professionals carry insurance for negligence claims. Professional liability insurers will pay defence counsel, assist in the defence of the professional and pay any damages award that may result—provided there is coverage and the limits of insurance are sufficient.
But professional liability insurance does not offer protection in every scenario. Regulated professionals also face the possibility of discipline proceedings arising out of complaints or allegations of wrongdoing made to their professional regulatory body.
In such cases, professional liability insurance does not provide coverage for legal representation before a professional regulatory body such as a medical college, the Law Society, or other regulatory body. Complaints from the public can lead to long investigations that result in costly and protracted discipline processes which can be very much like trials. These processes can end in a variety of discipline orders, including suspension or, at worst, expulsion from a profession. Because of the nature of the processes, and the severe potential consequences, legal representation is highly advisable even though it can also be very costly.
In contrast to a liability policy, a professional discipline policy (often called a legal expense policy) provides for legal representation in the case of a complaint and disciplinary action. It will also pay for legal efforts towards reinstatement in the event of the loss of a professional licence.
When making legal and strategic decisions about the fate of one’s licence, a lack of funds for legal steps and proceedings should not be a determinative factor. Further, disciplinary proceedings can be extremely stressful and such stress should not be compounded by financial worries. Professionals should be able to focus entirely on their defence and maintaining their legal rights to practise their profession. If you practise a regulated profession, consider purchasing legal expense or professional discipline insurance.