John Makin advises that it helps to have a clear picture of the types of products on offer when choosing an indemnity provider

A report by the consumer group Which? found that the small print on an average car, home, pet or travel insurance policy document is harder to understand than Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. If any of us has waded through the terms and conditions of an insurance policy, this might not come as a surprise.

Of course, it’s too late by the time you need to make a claim to find out that something is excluded. The same is true when it comes to dental indemnity. With the average dental professional receiving three clinical negligence claims during a 30-year career, according to DDU figures, and with some cases settling for in excess of £300,000, you certainly need to know that your indemnifier will be there for you when a solicitor’s letter drops on your doorstep.

Yet, dental professionals who opt for a clinical negligence insurance contract could be caught out if they don’t carefully check policy terms and conditions.

Small print examples

In our response to a consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care on appropriate indemnity, we provided some examples of indemnity insurance small print. These include the requirement to notify all claims and circumstances within 30 days, to undertake a medical and/or drug history and a basic periodontal examination for all new patients, and to use rubber dam to ensure instruments are not lost.

Some insurers place limits on the amount they would be prepared to pay out, while others require a dentist to pay for run off cover if the policy holder moves to another provider. Claims can arise many years after the treatment is provided; however, insurers may decide to withdraw entirely from a sector for commercial reasons.

By contrast, the discretionary indemnity provided by the DDU is occurrence-based, unlimited in time and value with no policy exclusions, excesses or other small print. The DDU’s member guide provides clear information to members about what to expect as part of their membership and has plain English guidelines.

Using discretion allows us to adopt a flexible approach to individual cases and we can assist in situations that might otherwise be excluded from contractual policies.

A review of requests for assistance over a three-year period showed us assisting with well over 99% of requests received from members and, where we did not, it was for reasons clearly shown in our member guide – such as not being in membership on the date the patient was treated.

When considering the best indemnity provider for your needs, it helps to have a clear picture of the differences between the types of products on offer.