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Professional Indemnity Insurance in South Africa – Are They the Answers to Your Liability Cover?

One of the areas of greatest confusion is the difference between Professional Indemnity, General Liability and Product Liability Insurance. Professional Indemnity Insurance provides coverage for professionals (corporate or individual) for any negligent act, error or omission alleged to have occurred while in the performance of their professional activities and duties. It differs from General Liability and Product Liability Coverage in that the acts covered are those acts performed by an engineer, architect, doctor or attorney in rendering professional services to their clients. To better understand this coverage we will have a brief discussion below of Product Liability, Professional Indemnity and the application of the latter and how it functions.

Aon Professional Indemnity Insurance

A. Product Liability

Product Liability is the legal responsibility of a manufacturer to a consumer of its’ product. Liability arises out of the negligent manufacture of a product including defective or faulty workmanship, materials or components. It is a liability that arises from the failure of a manufacturer to properly manufacture, test or warn about its product and occurs when the product departs in a negligent manner from its intended function.

Professional Liability Insurance for Counselors, Psychologists and Therapists

Indemnity Insurance Meaning

One of the areas of greatest confusion is the difference between Professional Indemnity, General Liability and Product Liability Insurance. Professional Indemnity Insurance provides coverage for professionals (corporate or individual) for any negligent act, error or omission alleged to have occurred while in the performance of their professional activities and duties. It differs from General Liability and Product Liability Coverage in that the acts covered are those acts performed by an engineer, architect, doctor or attorney in rendering professional services to their clients. To better understand this coverage we will have a brief discussion below of Product Liability, Professional Indemnity and the application of the latter and how it functions.

A. Product Liability

Product Liability is the legal responsibility of a manufacturer to a consumer of its' product. Liability arises out of the negligent manufacture of a product including defective or faulty workmanship, materials or components. It is a liability that arises from the failure of a manufacturer to properly manufacture, test or warn about its product and occurs when the product departs in a negligent manner from its intended function.

Firstly, Professional Indemnity is a third-party coverage that is a liability cover, not a property cover, which is provided to the assured for the claims against the insured from third party claimants.

Secondly, while coverage attaches from the beginning of the design phase of the project, a claim will not be until after delivery of the product and the product has left the premises of the assured.

Coverage for liability which occurs in the assureds' workplace must be found elsewhere, such as the General Liability, Builder's or Contractor's All Risk or Protection and Indemnity policies.

Thirdly, of course the claim must arise out of a failure in the professional services provided. There is some limited coverage afforded under the Professional Liability for faulty workmanship, materials and/or components. Also, included in the Product Liability cover would be any claim for defective materials or components, defect in manufacturing, or workmanship.

Fourthly, any inadvertent, non-intentional breach of a patent or copyright infringement is also covered under this policy.

What Is Professional Indemnity Insurance?

Project Professional Indemnity Insurance

Counselors, psychologists and therapists who maintain private practices, even on a part time basis, must consider the litigious aspect of their practice and closely review their insurance policies to protect their practices. A key element of proper coverage is called Professional Liability Insurance. Psychologist, therapists and counselor Professional Liability Insurance typically contain comprehensive coverages for their practices as an employed or self-employed professional.

Let's begin with some basic definitions. Professional liability insurance is one aspect of general insurance, or risk financing, used to protect the purchaser from liability risks such as lawsuits and other similar types of claims. Professional liability insurance is often referred to as PLI, this is common in insurance industry jargon, though today it has become a well know laymen's term for many businesses and organizations. This type of insurance coverage can protect psychologist, therapists and counselors (and their respective practices) from suits and claims relating to errors in the performance of their professional duties.

Professional liability insurance can also be referred to as professional indemnity insurance or as errors and omissions insurance which is also referred to as E&O. It is a type of liability insurance that helps insure professional service providers, those people who provide "counseling, guidance and advice", such as therapists, psychologists and counselors, though there are many other types of service providers within this field. This class of insurance was designed to protect these service providers in the event of lawsuits, or in other words, to mitigate the onerous costs of these types of suits including negligence claims made by a client, and damages awarded in civil lawsuits. Professional liability insurance is required by law for certain types of professional service practices, and may also be required contractually predicated upon the individuals or businesses served by the psychologists, therapists and counselors.

This insurance is typically issued by carriers, but often sold by brokers or agencies. It insurance is designed to offer protection against third party insurance claims, to someone suffering loss who is not a party to the insurance contract. Damage caused intentionally may not be covered under these types of insurance policies. When a claim is made against a counselor, psychologist or therapist, the insurance carrier has a duty to defend the insured. It is important to note here, that the legal costs of a defense often do not affect policy limits, unless the policy expressly states this fact. This type of clause is important to counselors, psychologists or therapists as defense costs can increase precipitously when cases progress to trial. A simple error or omission can put an entire practice at risk, and these types of insurance policies should be specifically tailored to protect counselors, psychologists and therapists, from bearing the full cost of unexpected legal fees.

Professional Liability Insurance for Counselors, Psychologists and Therapists

Doctors Professional Indemnity Insurance

Where are we now - and the future?

The Professional Indemnity (PI) market is currently in its soft phase, with insurers still placing emphasis on volume at the expense of profit.

And what of the future? It is certain that at some stage the market will enter harder conditions. There is uncertainty as to when the market might harden and by how much. Invariably the deeper and more prolonged the soft market the more pronounced the adjustment will be when it comes.

Events in insurance, as in life, are powerful and unpredictable. What future events might conspire, individually or collectively, to prompt a return to harder market conditions? The following is a list, by no means exhaustive, of the likely culprits:-

Griffiths & Armour Professional Risks acts as manager for the professional indemnity division of Griffiths & Armour.

Griffiths & Armour Professional Risks Ltd is an appointed representative of Griffiths & Armour which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.

All rights reserved. This document does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of fact or the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that might be of interest to Griffiths & Armour clients; specialist legal advice may be required where appropriate. Where links to third party websites are provided, we accept no responsibility for their content.