Magazine article Drug Topics

Legal Q&A: Do I Need Professional Liability Insurance?

Magazine article Drug Topics

Legal Q&A: Do I Need Professional Liability Insurance?

Article excerpt

If you have a practice-related legal question, please e-mail it to We will get you a response from Ken Baker, R.Ph., J.D., vp. and general counsel at Pharmacists Mutual Insurance Co. The following is his response to this issue's question.

Q: I graduated in May 2000 and am now plagued with the question, Do I need professional liability insurance? I work for a large pharmacy chain and understand that it provides me with some coverage. However, about half of the pharmacists I have asked have insurance beyond what the company provides. What do I need to know in order to make a decision about whether or not I need pharmacist liability insurance?

A: Before answering the question, I would be remiss if I did not admit to some bias. I am vp., general counsel for an insurance company that sells pharmacist professional liability insurance. In answering the question, however, I will try to maintain professional detachment.

It is important for an employed pharmacist to understand the role of individual pharmacist professional liability insurance. You say you understand you should be covered by your employer's policy. In most circumstances, you are correct. Your employer's policy should be the primary protection for any professional liability claims that occur while you are working there. Your employer's policy usually protects you, much of the time. To understand why we say "usually" and "much of the time," we need to examine the differences between the individual policy and the commercial policy.

Individual pharmacist professional liability policies came into general use in the 1960s. Up to that time, professional claims against pharmacists were rare and, when they did occur, were viewed by the insurance industry as product liability claims, rather than professional liability claims. Until then, pharmacists were sued only if they dispensed a drug, and, to dispense a drug, the pharmacist had to be at work. There was, at that time, very little pharmacist liability for mere advice, which could occur away from the workplace.

All drugstores and hospitals had insurance covering these "product liability" claims, and the coverage was relatively inexpensive. Most insurance companies considered pharmacy an occupation, not a profession. In the 1960s, pharmacy practice began to change. Insurance coverage, however, except for specialty companies, did not change. …

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