An attorney malpractice or lawyers professional liability insurance policy may have a Law ‘Firm’ Prior Acts Date, an ‘Individual’ Prior Acts Date, a ‘Career Coverage’ Prior Acts Date and/or ‘Predecessor ‘
Firm Prior Acts Date. Each can be used to address a specific coverage needs:
1. Firm Prior Acts – As the name implies covers work on behalf of the named insured firm after a specified date. This can be an actual date or may state ‘Full Prior Acts’. For some insurance carriers their policy assumes ‘Full Prior Acts’, unless endorsed.
2. Individual Prior Acts—Individual prior acts dates may restrict coverage for individual attorneys to the start date with the firm. After this date coverage for covered work on behalf of the named insured firm is provided. Not every attorney in the firm may have an individual prior acts date. If the attorney does not have an individual prior acts date, the assumption is that start date with the named insured firm or that the inception date of coverage falls under the firm prior acts date.
3. Career Coverage—An attorney with a career coverage endorsement has a prior date acts date that likely precedes that attorney’s start date with the firm. If may also precede the inception date of the firm’s claims made continuous coverage. With career coverage the attorney has coverage for work that the attorney has done prior to association with the current named insured firm. One should not confuse this coverage with predecessor firm prior acts. Predecessor firm Prior Acts is primary coverage that covers work done on behalf of the predecessor firm where as career coverage provides secondary coverage only for the individually named attorney.
4. Predecessor Firm Prior Acts--If the current law firm had ‘predecessor’ firm it normally should be addressed by endorsement in the current firm’s policy. This is important in that coverage for the ‘predecessor’ firm likely precedes the formation of the current firm and the Firm Prior Acts Date. Without the policy being properly endorsed, claims that precede the current Firm Prior Acts Date may not be covered. Wording and definitions for a ‘predecessor’ firm varies from insurance carrier to insurance carrier. Great care needs to be taken if switching carriers with this endorsement attached.
When changing from one malpractice insurance carrier to another it is very important that all of the above prior acts dates are maintained in a renewal policy with another malpractice insurance carrier. If these coverages are dropped or changed at renewal, the firm will settle on the new claims made coverage form with the new prior acts dates.
When looking to change or renew attorney malpractice coverage it is important to have an insurance agency that specializes in attorney malpractice insurance. Not properly addressing prior acts at the time policy forms are changed can leave a law firm open to uncovered attorney malpractice claims.
Note: The above is general information about a Claims Made Insurance policy concept. Different insurance policies and different situations may or may not treat these concepts in a similar manner.