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One of the most common

questions we hear is “Should

I purchase professional

liability insurance?” Our

response? “Absolutely.”

Professional liability insur-

ance provides legal repre-

sentation and indemnity

protection against the risks

and financial consequences

of a claim, or allegation aris-

ing from the performance of

one’s job duties.

Foreign Service mem-

bers—especially consular

officers, diplomatic security

agents, management officers

and senior managers—make

decisions and take actions

every day that can affect the

people they work with or the

public at large. Such deci-

sions could include declining

to issue a visa, launching

a security investigation

and more. Foreign Service

employees may be investi-

gated or sued for carrying

out their official duties.

Employees have used pro-

fessional liability insurance

to cover costs associated

with such things as Office

of the Inspector General

and Diplomatic Security/

Office of Special Investiga-

tions inquiries, congres-

sional testimony, defense

from a civil lawsuit (foreign

or domestic), allegations

of wrongdoing and defense

against a whistleblower or

ethics complaint.

Employees who carry

this insurance will have their

administrative expenses

Do I Need Professional Liability Insurance?



Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA State VP.


| (202) 647-8160

covered if the claim arises

out of any act, error or

omission committed by the

employee in the course of

the performance of his or her

official duties. This means

the insurance company will

appoint a lawyer to represent

the employee in any judicial

sanction or disciplinary or

criminal proceeding insti-

tuted against him or her

because of his or her job


In addition, the insurance

company will be liable for

defense costs and any mone-

tary penalties (up to the limit

of the insurance policy). The

cost of professional liability

premiums in such cases is

certainly far more palatable

for the employee than having

to retain a private attorney,

whose fees could range from

$275 to $375 per hour in this


Many employees believe

that they don’t need profes-

sional liability insurance

because their agency will

represent them if they are

sued as a result of per-

forming their duties. That

decision is actually up to

the particular agency—if it

does not believe that you

were acting within the scope

of your employment, or if

your interests conflict with

your agency’s, then it will not

represent you.

Your agency will provide

a U.S. government attorney

if you are called to testify

before Congress; but that

attorney represents the

agency, not you. Of course,

if your agency is investigat-

ing or proposing discipline

against you, it will not repre-

sent you.

Even if your agency

agrees to represent you, a

professional liability insur-

ance policy is useful because

the insurance company may

assign an attorney to moni-

tor and oversee the defense

provided by the government.

Thus, professional liability

insurance should be viewed

as a “supplemental” insur-

ance policy for those situa-

tions where the government

will not pay attorney fees

or, while paying the fees,

may not pay any damage

award assessed against the


Some employees think

they don’t need professional

liability insurance because

AFSA will represent them.

While that may often be the

case, AFSA’s resources are

not limitless and must be pri-

oritized. AFSA considers the

following to go beyond what

AFSA’s limited resources

can support: EEO cases,

FSGB hearings or appeals to


What’s more, while AFSA

routinely helps with non-

criminal OIG cases and DS/

OSI investigations, as well

as disciplinary cases and

grievances, AFSA does not

represent members in crimi-

nal investigations or in civil


For instance, if a Dip-

lomatic Security agent

is involved in a shooting

incident in the performance

of his or her duties that

could result in criminal or

civil charges, or if a member

of the Service is involved in

a car accident while on the

way to an official function

that results in bodily harm to

another person, professional

liability insurance could pro-

vide coverage and represen-

tation that AFSA would be

unable to provide.

We therefore advise our

members to take out profes-

sional liability insurance. The

State Department actively

encourages the purchase of

professional liability insur-

ance, and even has a policy

in place to reimburse certain

employees for up to 50

percent or $175 (whichever

is less) of the cost of the

insurance premium.

Visit 28LVTWt for departm


guidance on this subject.

Employees can find the

Claim for Reimbursement

for Expenditures on Official

Business (SF-1164) on the

forms page at the State

Department intranet site.

While AFSA does not

recommend any particular

company, we do offer a list of

possible providers of profes-

sional liability insurance at