Practice Issues: Insurance
Adapted from an article by Robert Dighton: published in ‘PLAY THERAPY’ (BAPT newsletter) March 2002 (issue 29)
As litigation against professionals increases, so too does the need for professionals to protect themselves. Since play therapists' fears of litigation may be far greater than the actual risk, it is important that knowledge surrounding this issue increases.
Play therapists may be covered against claims via their employer, where employers have a duty to insure for acts carried out by employees in the course of their work. A common assumption is that only play therapists working in independent or private practice require individual insurance cover. It is noteworthy that whilst employers' insurance may cover employees, there are occasions when there may be a conflict of interest between these parties. It is also important that every play therapist has independent access to legal advice and representation. Therefore, it is a practical necessity (as well as being an ethical obligation) for all play therapists to ensure that they undertake their own individual insurance cover.
Another common assumption is that play therapists only require insurance to cover their play therapy practice. Supervisors must also ensure that their supervisory practice is covered by an appropriate insurance policy.
Although insurance policies are commonly called indemnity insurance, it is important that play therapists also carefully consider the following areas (Jenkins, 1997):
1. Professional indemnity insurance
2. Public liability
3. Domestic insurance cover for home and car (only if used in connection with work)
4. Product liability
5. Libel and slander
Professional indemnity policy is "essentially an insurance which provides resources and funds required to defend an allegation of negligence" (Flaxman, 1989). Such a policy covers two areas:
1. Negligence caused by errors and omissions
Public liability covers the liability for any injury or death to persons (other than employees) or for damages to third party property. Buildings are often covered by Public Liability insurance and so individual play therapists may not require this cover. However, any play therapist working outside of statutory premises should carefully consider this type of cover
Domestic insurance will not be appropriate to cover liability for working at home or equipment used at home. Care must be given to avoid invalidating already existing contents or house insurance by using the home as a workplace. The same issues are also relevant for the use of vehicles for work.
Product liability covers the supply and use of any products, including audio tapes (for example relaxation tapes), biofeedback machines etc.
Libel and slander covers comments made about clients or third parties within reports to other agencies, departments, the police or courts.
Professional indemnity cover generally covers costs from £500 000 - £5,000,000. Whilst individuals may wish to choose the cheapest and lowest cover, it is worth noting that the majority of costs incurred within Indemnity issues are legal costs. As the BPS stated "Most of the claims against insured members have proved to be ill-founded, but not until after legal costs (and in some cases substantial legal costs) have been incurred on their behalf by the insurers" (BPS, 1995).
If a play therapist believes a claim is likely to be made, it is essential that the insurers are immediately informed. As Flaxman (1989) states "The policy contains clear instructions not to make any offers, promises, compromises, payments or admissions of liability". Making such claims may invalidate a play therapist's insurance cover.
In cases where there may be a potential complaint or litigation by a client, Jenkins (1997) states the following actions:
- Be alert to early signs of conflict, hostility or persistent misunderstanding with clients.
- Attempt to resolve these conflicts informally at an early stage wherever possible.
- Do not make admissions of liability which may invalidate your insurance cover or weaken a later court case.
- Keep detailed records of contact (letters, phone calls, conversations) for later reference.
- Contact your professional insurance company or professional protection
society at an early stage for advice.
British Psychological Society (1995) Professional Indemnity Insurance. The Psychologist, February, pp 82-85.
Flaxman, R. H. (1989) How to Protect your Reputation: A Guide to Professional Indemnity Insurance.
Jenkins, P. (1997) Counselling, Psychotherapy and the Law.
Professional Insurance Companies
(No preference or recommendation is inferred by inclusion in the following list. Information presented here is for comparison purposes only. Practitioners are advised to obtain relevant independent information and quotes.)
Some companies offer a discount to BAPT members: see BAPT website Members’ Area
Smithson Mason Group
Telephone: 0113 294 4000
1200 Century Way
Telephone: 0113 251 5011 Monday to Friday 8.30 to 6.00
Fax: 0113 251 5100
Howden produce a useful document: Counselling & Psychotherapy Note-taking & Record-keeping which is available for download from the Members’ Area of the BAPT website (Resources page) http://members.bapt.uk.com/downloads/Note%20Taking%20and%20Record%20Keeping.pdf
Towergate Professional Risks
New quotes and enquiries: 0113 391 9598
Towergate produce a useful document: Professional Liability Insurance Explained which is available for download from the Members’ Area of the BAPT website (Resources page) http://members.bapt.uk.com/downloads/Towergate%20Liability%20Flyer%20(2).pdf