Professional liability insurance, more commonly known as errors and omissions (E&O insurance), is a special type of coverage that protects your company against claims that a professional service you provided caused your client to suffer financial harm due to mistakes on your part (errors) or because you failed to perform some service (omissions).
E&O insurance can cover the cost of defending your company in a civil lawsuit and certain damages awarded, even if the legal action turns out to be groundless. Professional liability insurance is required by law in some areas for certain kinds of professional practices, especially medical and legal, where it is more commonly called malpractice insurance. This type of protection is not part of your general liability insurance or homeowners insurance.
Coverage does not include criminal prosecution, and there is a wide range of potential liabilities under civil laws that may not be covered unless written explicitly into the professional liability insurance policy. Common claims that professional liability insurance covers are negligence, misrepresentation, violation of good faith and fair dealing, and inaccurate advice. Some policies could also cover privacy violations.
Many types of businesses need professional liability insurance. If your company business works directly with customers while providing services, you should consider professional liability insurance:
Technology professionals can benefit from E&O insurance because when technology fails, the financial impact to their business can be significant. Traditional liability insurance policies are not designed to respond to these claims, so professional liability can be extremely beneficial for software and technology companies, as well as hardware and electronic manufacturing businesses.
Legal professionals have two options for professional liability insurance from The Hartford. Depending on the size of the law firm, more than 20 attorneys or less than 20 attorneys, The Hartford’s team of underwriters offers E&O insurance coverage either through the Target Professionals Program or on an excess basis.
Real estate professionals may need protection against losses resulting from negligence or errors and omissions in the performance of their services.
In addition to E&O insurance, may businesses may need Management Liability Insurance as well. This coverage is designed to help protect directors and partners from financially devastating lawsuits. Many small businesses, the best solution is a Business Owner’s Policy, which includes professional liability coverage.
Professional liability insurance (PLI), also called professional indemnity insurance (PII) but more commonly known as errors & omissions (E&O) in the US, is a form of liability insurance which helps protect professional advice- and service-providing individuals and companies from bearing the full cost of defending against a negligence claim made by a client, and damages awarded in such a civil lawsuit. The coverage focuses on alleged failure to perform on the part of, financial loss caused by, and error or omission in the service or product sold by the policyholder. These are causes for legal action that would not be covered by a more general liability insurance policy which addresses more direct forms of harm. Professional liability insurance may take on different forms and names depending on the profession, especially medical and legal, and is sometimes required under contract by other businesses that are the beneficiaries of the advice or service.
Coverage sometimes provides for the defense costs, including when legal action turns out to be groundless. Coverage does not include criminal prosecution, nor a wide range of potential liabilities under civil law that are not enumerated in the policy, but which may be subject to other forms of insurance. Professional liability insurance is required by law in some areas for certain kinds of professional practice.
The primary reason for professional liability coverage is that a typical general liability insurance policy will only respond to a bodily injury, property damage, personal injury or advertising injury claim. Other forms of insurance cover employers, public and product liability. But various professional services and products can give rise to legal claims without causing any of the specific types of harm covered by such policies. Common claims that professional liability insurance covers are negligence, misrepresentation, violation of good faith and fair dealing, and inaccurate advice. Examples:
If a software product fails to perform properly, it may not cause physical, personal, or advertising damages, therefore the general liability policy would not be triggered; it may, however, directly cause financial losses which could potentially be attributed to the software developer’s misrepresentation of the product capabilities.
If a custom-designed product fails without causing damage to person or property other than to the subject product itself, a product liability policy may cover consequential damages such as losses from business interruption, but will generally not cover the cost to redesign, repair or replace the failed product itself. Claims for these losses against the manufacturer may be covered by a professional liability policy.
Professional liability insurance policies are generally set up based on a claims-made basis, meaning that the policy only covers claims made during the policy period. More specifically a typical policy will provide indemnity to the insured against loss arising from any claim or claims made during the policy period by reason of any covered error, omission or negligent act committed in the conduct of the insured’s professional business during the policy period. Claims which may relate to incidents occurring before the coverage was active may not be covered, although some policies may have a retroactive date, such that claims made during the policy period but which relate to an incident after the retroactive date (where the retroactive date is earlier than the inception date of the policy) are covered. Retroactive cover, is usually offered as an additional option to include cover within your policy for work you have already done or services you have already provided.
Coverage does not include criminal prosecution, nor all forms of legal liability under civil law, only those specifically enumerated in the policy. Cyber liability, covering data breach and other technology issues, may not necessarily be included in core policies, although it is readily available on the market.
Some policies are more tightly worded than others. While a number of policy wordings are designed to satisfy a stated minimum approved wording, which makes them easier to compare, others differ dramatically in the coverage they provide. For example, breach of duty may be included if the incident occurred and was reported by the policy holder to the insurer during the policy period. Wordings with major legal differences can be confusingly similar to non-lawyers. Coverage for «negligent act, error or omission» indemnifies the policyholder against loss/circumstances incurred only as a result of any professional error or omission, or negligent act (i.e., the modifier «negligent» does not apply to all three categories, though any non-legal reader might assume that it did). A «negligent act, negligent error or negligent omission» clause is a much more restrictive policy, and would deny coverage in a lawsuit alleging a non-negligent error or omission.
Coverage is usually continued for as long as the policyholder provides covered services or products, plus the span of any applicable statute of limitations. Cancelling the policy before this time would in effect make it as if the insured never had coverage for any incidents, since any client could bring any case with regard to any such services or products that occurred before the statute of limitations cut-off point. A break in coverage could result in what is called a «gap in coverage,» which is the loss of all prior acts.
Depending on profession
For example, in reference to medical professions it is called malpractice insurance, while errors and omissions (E&O) insurance is used by insurance agents, consultants, brokers and lawyers. Other professions that commonly purchase professional liability insurance include accounting, engineering and financial services, construction and maintenance (general contractors, plumbers, etc., many of whom are also surety bonded), and transport. Some charities and other nonprofits/NGOs are also professional-liability insured.
This type of insurance is in fact pretty common all over the world, being considered the main risk management instrument both for individuals and companies. The regulation in force, though, may vary and there can be significant differences between a country and another; in the European Union, despite the efforts at harmonizing the rules involved in this segment of the market, every country has its own framework legislation, resulting in a wide range of options. In the recent past countries the like of Italy adopted a number of dispositions that introduced an obligation for every category of self employed professionals to acquire this form of insurance; such obligation has become effective only with the definition of all the parameters. Finaccord, one of the leading international market research and consulting companies, has estimated that in the first 10 countries (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) the total value of this branch will rise from 6.15 billion US dollars in 2009 to 7.5 billion dollars by the end of 2017
Errors and omissions insurance
Errors and omissions (E&O) insurance, which may exclude negligent acts other than errors and omissions («mistakes»), is most often used by consultants and brokers and agents of various sorts, including notaries public, real estate brokers, insurance agents themselves, appraisers, management consultants and information technology service providers (there are specific E&O policies for software developers, home inspectors, website developers, etc.), architects, landscape architects, engineers, attorneys, third-party business administrators, quality control specialists, nondestructive testing analysts, and many others. A mistake which causes financial harm to another can occur in almost any transaction in many professions.
Gaps in coverage
A gap in coverage, or lapse in coverage could result from not renewing the E&O coverage the same day it expires. Several carriers who underwrite policies will not allow professionals to backdate your coverage to your expiration date without a valid explanation (such as, but not limited to: natural disaster or personal medical issue that prevented you from renewing on time) and a signed warranty letter informing the carrier the specific professional is not aware of any pending claims. For example, with an effective date of 06/01/2010 and coverage expiring on 06/01/2011 and the insured does not renew the coverage on or before 06/01/2011 then the insured may have to enroll with a gap in coverage, resulting in a loss of prior acts coverage such that there is no coverage for any business placed prior to their new effective date. Although some carriers may allow a 30- to 45-day grace period, it is common for them to disallow this.
Gaps in coverage are common in E&O coverage. A modest survey suggested that most professionals are unaware of what a gap in coverage really is or its harsh consequences. Several professionals agreed that they incorrectly believed since they were not writing business during specific months, they did not need continuous coverage.
A gap in coverage should not be confused with terminating or not renewing a policy due to retirement or death. In these cases, an extended reporting policy (ERP) may be purchased. The availability of extended reporting policies depends on the carrier, the specific policy, and the reason for terminating business. Certain provisions will limit the professional from writing new business during the ERP, since only past policies are generally covered in an ERP policy, nothing current or new.
Extended reporting period (tail) coverage
«Tail» or «extended reporting» endorsements cover events that occur while the policy is in force but are reported to the carrier after the policy terminates. Many claims-made policies contain provisions to offer an extended reporting period if the policy is non-renewed. The typical tail extends the reporting period only for claims up to 6 months or one year after the policy expiration date. An additional premium is charged when the extended reporting option is exercised.
«Prior acts» (or «nose») coverage transfers the retro-active date for an old policy to a new insurance carrier—eliminating the need to purchase tail coverage from the last carrier. Nose coverage is usually less expensive than purchasing tail coverage from the old carrier. Tail coverage costs 2-3 times the expiring premium.