As with many terms with Professional Liability Insurance, there is not common meaning to the term. “Full Prior Acts” is a term that is often misunderstood.
Many insureds assume that “Full Prior Acts”, actually means that the insured attorney is covered from the inception of their practice. While this might be true, it is not always the correct assumption. First you need to understand that for Lawyers Professional Liability Insurance the policy is written for the firm. Any attorney that works for the firm are then covered under that policy. There may be separate endorsements listing the attorneys associated with the firm’s coverage or it may be done by the attorney malpractice insurance policy language.
So given this, the term “Full Prior Acts” on an Attorney Malpractice policy would provide prior acts coverage back to the inception date of the firm. Now if the attorney, whether a solo or an multi-person firm, has only practice at the current firm, then the attorney and the firm have coverage back to the inception date of his or her practice. If this statement is not true, then the attorney may have a coverage issue with a “Full Prior Acts” policy.
If a new firm is formed from part of an prior firm and the new firm does not meet the criteria as a successor firm, then again the term “Full Prior Acts’, only applies to the inception of the new firm. If the prior firm had not purchased an Extended Reporting Period Endorsement, there is no cover for past acts associated with the prior firm.
If an attorney has left a firm and gets a new policy for his or her solo firm and the new policy states “Full Prior Acts”, generally coverage is only from the inception date of the new solo firm. Past acts from the prior firm are not covered.
It is possible to get endorsements to cover the prior firm or attorneys past acts, but this needs to be done at the inception of the new coverage. Discovering this problem a year or so into the new firm’s insurance coverage, makes it very difficult to correct. Usually a “Career Coverage” or Specific “Predecessor Firm” endorsement or policy language is needed to address the issues with past acts.
Without such endorsements, “Full Prior Acts” are “Full Prior Acts” only for the current law firm.