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The declarations page outlines the key elements of your malpractice insurance coverage (LPL).  Even though there is no standard LPL policy at a bare minimum checking the items listed below is essential.  If you read nothing else, read your declarations page.  Key items to review are:

1.       Name of the insurance carrier that is writing your coverage should be listed.

2.       Terms of coverage—The LPL declarations page should specifically state that this is a “claims made” or “claims made & reported” policy.  It also should state what the coverage limitations are.

3.       What is the policy period—The effective and expiration dates of your policy should be stated.  Remember by convention, the coverage is effective at 12:01am and expires on 12:01 am.  Does not seem like a big deal unless you wait to report a known claim after 12:01 am on the expiration date.

4.       What are the liability limits—The per claim and aggregate liability limits should be clearly stated.  It may or may not also state whether the coverage is Inside the Policy Limits (CEIL) or Outside the Policy Limits (CEOL).  Whether the coverage is CEIL or CEOL may also be stated by the endorsement section or in the body of the policy.

5.       What is the deductible—The deductible amount should be stated.  If it is an aggregate or per claim deductible and/or 1st dollar defense (loss only deductible) this should be listed or found in the policy endorsement section of the policy or the body of the policy.

6.       Who is the Named Insured—Making sure this is correct is essential.  Many attorneys mistakenly assume just because they are a member of a firm all of their work is covered.  If an attorney has an expectation that work for another entity is also covered under this policy, that entity should be listed in the named insured heading and/or an attached policy endorsement.

7.       What is the address of the named insured—Making sure that this is correct ensures that you will receive Insurance Company notifications sent to this address.  Even if you are with the same carrier, errors can be made.  If you have recently moved, it is very important to make sure that it is accurate.

8.       What is the retroactive or prior acts date—Claims made coverage generally has a prior acts date listed.  If you have had prior acts coverage in the past, make sure that this date has not changed.  In some cases the policy form by definition may be “Full Prior Acts”, but be careful if having switched insurance carriers.  “Full Prior Acts”, is not the same from carrier to carrier, it is especially true if a predecessor firm is assumed to be covered.  The retroactive date by be on the declarations page, in the endorsements or part of the body of the policy.

9.        What is the policy premium—make sure that the premium you thought you paid is the premium that you did pay.  If the policy is issued by a surplus lines carrier premium taxes and fees should be listed.  In some cases there may be additional fees such as a Risk Retention Group, Risk Purchasing Group or a Policy Fee.

10.   Endorsements that modify the policy—should be listed as part of the declarations page all policy endorsements.  It is important that you make sure that you have a copy of all policy endorsements as well as the body of the policy to know what insurance coverage you really have.

This looks like a long list, but It should only take about 5 minutes to go through.  Even though your agent should have also reviewed the above, you should not totally really on the insurance agent.  The insurance agent has a different perspective.  What the agent thought you have and what you think you bought can be 2 different things.  Mistakes can happen.  And with most jurisdictions it is the responsibility of the insured to have read and understood the policy.  Your coverage ignorance is not a defense.

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