The average person isn't an expert on dental procedures. That means that they don't always know right away if something has gone wrong, and lawsuits over dental malpractice can happen months – or even years – after the fact.
This means that retirement doesn't necessarily mean it's time to get rid of your dental malpractice insurance. In fact, this depends on what type of insurance you currently have as well as whether you can fully commit to no longer performing any dental procedures at all.
Carry Occurrence Policy While Practicing
There are two main types of malpractice insurance: occurrence policies and claims-made policies. If you have an occurrence policy, it covers any incidents that occur – hence the name – while you are covered by the policy. What this means is that, if you retire and cancel your insurance and are later sued for something that happened two years ago while you were covered, that coverage counts. For claims-made policies, the incident must have occurred and the suit must be brought during your coverage.
This means that occurrence policies make retirement coverage simple. As long as you are not practicing, there's no need for you to carry a policy at all. The mere fact that you had the policy while you were practicing is enough to protect you. However, if you plan to treat any patients during your retirement – including as charity work – you won't be covered for those treatments. If this is the case, ask if you can have your policy downgraded to a less expensive part-time policy or keeping your current policy until you are truly no longer practicing.
Purchase Tail Policy
If you have a claims-made policy, you should look into having a tail policy to cover you when you reach retirement. Check with your insurance agent; it's possible that you already have a tail policy as part of your regular insurance. If not, you can purchase one to add to your current policy or look for a separate one from a new agent.
The length of your tail policy should be based on the statute of limitations. This varies from state to state, so you should check with an insurance agent or lawyer (click here for more info about this) to find out the maximum amount of time a patient has to bring a lawsuit. Once you have stopped practicing, you'll need the tail policy for that amount of time; once you reach the end of it, you can stop your coverage.