As a physical therapist—and business owner—it’s best to be prepared for anything; and, in most cases, that means having malpractice insurance (a.k.a. professional liability insurance) for your PT clinic. After all, if a client has an accident or injury on your—or your staff’s—watch, then a lawsuit could seriously cost you (whether or not that accident or injury was actually your fault). That’s why physical therapy business owners may want to consider comprehensive malpractice insurance to fully protect themselves, their staff, and their practice. Read on to learn everything you need to know about PT malpractice insurance—including how much physical therapy malpractice insurance costs.

This article is for informational purposes only; we’re not promoting any of the insurance companies included and we encourage you to do your own research and contact a healthcare attorney for advice about your practice’s needs.

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What is PT malpractice insurance?

PT malpractice insurance is designed to protect physical therapists from potential lawsuits that could hurt their businesses. In short, it’s a safety net that PTs can rely on to cover the cost of a potential legal situation. And, as we wrote here, defending against a malpractice suit can get pretty pricey, with legal fees sometimes reaching as high as $500 an hour. With that much money (and your professional reputation) at stake, it’s integral that you have adequate legal coverage.

Every malpractice insurance plan provides a different level of coverage; while most provide 24-hour protection, coverage for claims up to $1 million dollars, and license protection, others also cover attorneys’ fees, settlement fees, and bond premiums. That’s why you’ll want to work with an insurance broker—and maybe even an attorney—who specializes in health care to ensure you have the right coverage for your practice. It’s also important to note that some plans provide coverage only to the individual, while others cover the entire firm. To learn more about why you may—or may not—want to procure individual protection as a staff PT, check out this post here.

What does it cost?

The cost of malpractice insurance varies depending on the coverage you select. For physical therapists, organizations like Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO) (which serves APTA members) has coverage that includes:

  • professional liability coverage,
  • license protection,
  • defendant expense benefits,
  • deposition representation,
  • personal liability coverage, and
  • a defense attorney.

According to My PT Insurance, employees can obtain personal coverage for as low as $149/year and self-employed PTs can receive coverage for $297/year. Plan pricing also depends on location (among other factors). According to this resource, “Malpractice costs in Minnesota could cost anywhere from $4,000 to $17,000 per year, depending on your specialty.” Generally speaking, coverage for a physical therapy practice should be less expensive, than say, a surgical practice. However, some large organizations with multiple locations and numerous staff members could end up paying up to $3 million a year for comprehensive coverage. On the other hand, students may pay as little as $35 per year.

Most insurance providers offer free quotes to give you a better idea of what malpractice insurance will cost for your practice, so be sure to compare plans and vendors before selecting an insurance partner. And if you’re an APTA member, you can take advantage of products and services through that membership here.

What is the current state of malpractice suits in physical therapy?

According to the APTA, the number of malpractice claims—as well as the cost associated with them—has increased as the profession has grown. According to HPSO, “between 2011 and 2015, payments for malpractice claims rose to $42 million” with claims of “improper management” nearly doubling for PTs and PTAs. Some of HPSO’s examples of improper management claims include a PT’s or PTA’s failure to:

  • Follow practitioner orders;
  • Obtain informed consent;
  • Complete a proper patient assessment;
  • Cease treatment following excessive/unexpected pain; or
  • Report the patient's condition to the referring practitioner.

While a malpractice suit could wreak havoc on a physical therapy practice, it doesn’t have to—especially if you’ve invested in the right coverage. What are your thoughts about malpractice insurance? Is your practice covered? Have you had to rely on that coverage? Share your experience in the comment section below.

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