Protecting social workers from negligence claims through liability insurance
Social workers take on a personal commitment to help others. It’s a rewarding field that helps improve the overall well-being and quality of life of individuals, groups, and even entire communities. Despite its many rewards, however, social work can be risky business. Social workers must have significant education credentials and undergo rigorous training. They must also adhere to countless and ever-changing government regulations and licensing requirements.
Social workers try to do their best to make the right call for everyone involved, but sometimes they may miss or misconstrue signals, or may not get the result the client would like. This is why it is absolutely essential that social workers obtain liability insurance before tackling their first case. Taking the time to invest in the appropriate insurance coverage now to protect against potential lawsuits later can save you a lot of headaches – and money – in the long run.
Social workers can be sued for negligence
Every day, social workers run the risk that someone may file a claim against them for negligence. This can happen if a client thinks that the social worker did something they shouldn’t have done, or neglected to do something they should have done. Even if the suit is found to be without basis, or the social worker is found not to be liable, a lawsuit can be costly to defend.
Professional liability insurance for social workers
Professional liability insurance, sometimes called errors and omissions or E&O coverage, protects against claims of negligence in the course of doing business. For social workers, it would cover the cost of your defense in a lawsuit as well as any settlement or judgment.
Here are some situations in which a social worker would need professional liability insurance.
- A male social worker is working with a 14-year-old girl and her family. It becomes apparent to the social worker that the girl has a crush on him, so he removes himself from the case and suggests that a female colleague take over. The girl gets angry and accuses the social worker of sexual misconduct, and her parents file suit. The social worker’s professional liability insurance policy would appoint an attorney to defend the social worker and cover the associated costs.
- A person with a history of substance abuse is under the care of a social worker. While attempting to detox, the patient confides to the social worker that he has thoughts of suicide. The social worker makes a recommendation to a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication, but the patient doesn’t follow through. The patient then suffers an intentional overdose. They survive, but there are lasting effects, and the family sues the social worker for negligence. A professional liability policy would cover the cost of the claim and the cost of the social worker’s defense.
Suing a social worker for slander
Can a social worker be sued for slander? The answer is yes. For example, suppose two social workers are out in public discussing a difficult client who is well known in the community. Their conversation is overheard and what they said gets back to the client, who sues. This type of claim requires general liability insurance, a different kind of coverage that also protects you against other people’s claims of bodily injury and property damage.
Social workers can protect themselves by having both general liability and professional liability insurance coverage. You’ll be protected if someone sues, even if you haven’t made a mistake.