What Is Professional Liability Insurance?
Professional liability insurance provides policyholders with legal representation (your own lawyer) to defend you against work-related allegations, claims and lawsuits. It also provides indemnifications (it pays damages) for injuries, property damage, or loss, if you are held liable for a civil judgment arising out of an act, error or omission that occurred in the performance of your job.
Professional liability insurance generally covers three areas:
- Administrative and disciplinary matters.
- Cases where someone tries to sue you in your personal capacity for performing your job.
- Criminal investigations that you could be subjected to while performing your job.
Who Should Get It?
Ambassadors, Deputy Chiefs of Mission, managers, supervisors, law enforcement officers, contract officers, consular officers, and any other employee who would like to ensure coverage in the event he/she is sued, is proposed for disciplinary action for acts or omissions arising out of the scope of his/her duties, or is the subject of a Congressional inquiry should get professional liability coverage.
What Sorts of Issues Have Resulted in the Need for Professional Liability Insurance?
Professional liability insurance covers you when you are sued or some action is taken against you as a result of the performance of your job (i.e., when you are the subject of some action). It won’t cover you if you are merely a witness and it will not cover you if you initiate legal action against others.
Employees have used professional liability insurance coverage for Office of Inspector General and Diplomatic Security/office of security investigations (which may or may not result in criminal prosecution or disciplinary action), defense from a civil lawsuit (foreign or domestic), allegation of wrongdoing, and defense against a whistleblower or ethics complaint. In some cases, professional liability insurance has covered testimony before Congress or congressional committees. Whether or not coverage will be provided will turn on whether the insurance company believes the insured is the subject or could become the subject of the inquiry, as opposed to being merely a witness.
If your insurance company denies coverage, please contact AFSA Labor Management (email@example.com) and we will see how we can assist you. For example, if you are called for deposition or testimony before Congress or a committee, and your insurance provider states that the activity is not covered under your policy, please contact AFSA.
Won’t My Agency Represent Me?
It is the Government’s decision whether or not to represent the employee. In most cases, your agency will represent you if you are sued for the performance of your duties or called to testify before Congress or a committee. However, if the agency does not believe you were acting in the scope of your employment, if your interests and the agency’s do not coincide, or, as we have seen recently, agency attorneys are not permitted to attend the proceeding, the Government may not represent you. In addition, even if your agency will provide a Government attorney, the attorney represents the Government, not you. Finally, if your agency is investigating you or proposing discipline against you, it will obviously not represent you.
Won’t AFSA Represent Me?
AFSA represents members in non-criminal OIG and DS/office of security investigations, as well as disciplinary cases and grievances. It does not represent members in criminal investigations or in lawsuits and normally does not represent employees called for deposition or testimony before Congress or a committee. While AFSA can represent you in most cases that may arise in the course of your career, we believe it is prudent to have professional liability insurance for those rare instances where we cannot represent you.
Does My Agency Provide Premium Reimbursement for Professional Liability Insurance?
The Foreign Affairs agencies have policies in place to reimburse certain employees for up to 50%, or $175, whichever is less, of the cost of professional liability insurance.
How Do I Choose a Provider?
As with any type of insurance, you should read the policy carefully and ask questions. In choosing a provider, you may want to ask about the following:
- What type of claims do you cover?
- Have you covered testimony before Congress or a committee and if so, under what circumstances?
- Do you provide coverage for security clearance proceedings? If so, under what circumstances?
- Do you provide free legal consultations for pre-complaint or other matters?
- Who does your legal work? You will want to ensure that the insurance company assigns an attorney who has the requisite legal expertise and experience.
- What is the financial rating of the underwriter of your company?
- [For those who are contemplating switching from one insurance company to another] Do you provide coverage for events that occurred prior to the effective date of coverage if you had no knowledge of such acts?
- Do you provide coverage after I leave federal service and if so, for how long?
Professional Liability Insurance Companies:
Please note that this is not a comprehensive list of providers. In addition, AFSA does not endorse or make any representations regarding these providers.