Risk & Insurance
Guilty until proven innocent?
Common PI claims against Chiropractors, and staying diligent

Insurance is the one thing in life you pay for and hope to never have to use, and Professional Indemnity Insurance (PI) is no different. If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid having to make a claim until now, paying your PI renewal year after year may feel like a futile exercise. However, claims of professional negligence can happen to even the most cautious practitioner - since 2010, the Aon Chiropractic Professional Indemnity scheme has paid almost $9 million in personal injury claims costs, so there’s no denying the significance of claims made against chiropractors. Let’s look at some of the ways claims under PI can come about, and how you can manage your risk.  

How claims can arise

Claims of professional negligence against chiropractors can come about in several ways. Unsurprisingly, the most common category of claims is for personal injury, followed by service complaints, sexual misconduct, and unprofessional conduct. Some other ways claims can arise include billing practices, loss of documents and practice management. Claims vary in terms of severity - from fractured ribs right up to allegations of causing a stroke or death. This means that not only can the cost of a claim vary but also the length of time it takes to finalise or settle the claim.

Also remember that while a claim may be classified under one category, a single claim can often have several allegations raised. In some instances, when the complaint is made to a regulatory body and the original allegation is deemed to be unfounded, enquiry other issues are identified. Not all issues that arise relate directly from the care and treatment of the client. A claim under PI can arise from breaching the advertising guidelines or not meeting social media obligations, so it’s important for practitioners to be aware of the codes and guidelines of their profession to make sure they are adhering to them.

Guilty until proven innocent…?

While there are times when you may in fact be found accountable for injury or financial loss suffered by a client, sometimes clients will make a complaint or commence legal action even if their claim does not have much of a basis. In this case, the unfortunate reality is that even if you’re not found to have made an error, the legal fees associated with defending yourself can have a detrimental impact on your finances. This is one of the reasons why Professional Indemnity Insurance is so important for chiropractors to hold, as it can help to cover the legal fees you might incur in defending yourself.

Being diligent in managing risk

Sound, well-rounded, and ongoing risk management not only plays a key role in preventing claims in the first place, but also a critical role in responding to complaints and defending claims. If your faced with a claim or complaint, one of the most important elements is the credibility of your clinical notes. Your clinical notes should build a strong picture of the treatment you provided, not just on the day the incident occurred but over the period you were treating the client. The discussion and enquiries you had with your client before providing treatment and having clear evidence that your client provided informed consent Insurance is one element of your risk management but having concise and ongoing clinical notes will significantly strengthen your defence if a client does come forth with an allegation.

The role of your broker

Staying in contact with your insurance broker is also a wise action in managing your risk. This includes contacting your broker if any of your practice’s circumstances change to ensure your cover stays up to date. Also remember that you are required to inform your broker as soon as you become aware of a potential claim or complaint, rather than wait until an actual claim surfaces. Even if a client mentions they’re going to make a complaint against you, your insurance broker needs to be notified as soon as practical but before the policy renews or expires, as failing to do so may compromise your coverage later.