Tips for Avoiding Medical Malpractice Risk

Categories: Malpractice Insurance
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Published on: March 21, 2014

In today’s litigious society, malpractice lawsuits are a constant risk for doctors. You may think that everyone is entitled to the occasional mistake, but that old adage doesn’t apply to doctors simply because a medical mistake could cost a life. But, surprisingly, most malpractice lawsuits are filed, not because of an error, but because of miscommunication. Therefore, all doctors, even the very best, should take steps to minimize their risk for malpractice claims. Get started with the following tips:

  • Build up trust: A patient who trusts his or her doctor is less likely to sue. To build that trust, thoroughly review a patient’s chart previous to an appointment so you’re informed before walking in the door. Electronic health records (EHRs) are coded with a timestamp that shows how long you spent reviewing a file, which can be damaging in court if you didn’t spend adequate time reading over the information before treatment.
  • Follow up: If a patient misses an appointment, a doctor’s practice should have protocols for following up with that patient to reschedule. This minimizes the risk of charges of neglect.

Though your risks may be few, they can still result in a lawsuit. Call Mitchell & Mitchell Insurance Agency at (415) 883-2525 for more information on California malpractice insurance.

Quick Ethics Tips for Attorneys

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Published on: March 7, 2014

A lawyer’s responsibilities on a day to day basis involve keeping clients happy and looking out for their best interests, but must also consider what is ethical or not.  Here are some quick ethical tips attorneys should always think about in regards to their clients.


  1. Recognize that conflict waivers don’t last forever.
  2. Make sure your non-lawyer employees are not practicing law.
  3. Don’t neglect trust accounting.
  4. Keep your opinions off-line!
  5. Vet all expert witnesses.


What are one or two tips you always have to remind yourself of?


By: Dan McKenna, JD, RPLU

Our Engagement Letter Review

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Published on: February 20, 2014


Well, we are wrapping up our first month of engagement letter reviews and I’m very happy to say our CNA Lawyer’s Professional Liability insureds are coming through with flying colors!
By CNA’s definition, an engagement agreement is a written agreement between attorney and client in which key terms of the legal representation are defined, including the identity of the client, the scope of the representation, legal fees and expenses, responsibilities of the law firm and client, termination of the representation, and file retention and destruction.
Does anyone have anything else they recommend adding?
Thanks to our CNA Professional Liability insureds!

By Dan McKenna, JD, RPLU

For more information regarding engagement letters for lawyers, please see theLawyer’s Toolkit.

6 Useful Tips for Getting Home Insurance

Categories: Homeowners
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Published on: February 17, 2014

Both homeowners and renters need insurance to protect themselves, their loved ones and their belongings. The main difference between homeowners and renters insurance is that homeowners covers your home’s physical structure and your property, while renters covers only your property. However, whichever type of policy you buy should also include liability coverage to protect you against legal and medical fees that may result from a third party bodily injury or property damage that occurs on your property or because of your actions.

When selecting coverage, consider the following tips that you may not have previously known:

  1. You must choose whether you want coverage for replacement value or actual cash value. Replacement value covers the costs of repairing your home with materials of similar quality without factoring in depreciation. Actual cash value covers the costs or repairing your home after factoring in depreciation.
  2. Floods and earthquakes are generally excluded from basic policies, so ask your agent about adding those specific coverages if you live in an area prone to those types of natural disasters.
  3. High-dollar valuables—fine art, jewelry, a collection of china etc.—may have limited coverage under a basic policy. Talk to your agent about adding a rider to your policy to cover the higher value of such items.
  4. Your policy will need to be updated after large purchases or renovations to ensure proper coverage for the full value of your home and possessions.
  5. If you own a trampoline, pool or swing set, you should consider additional liability coverage to meet the higher risk.
  6. Unrelated roommates should purchase their own renters policies to protect their own belongings.

Whether you’re a home owner or renter, it’s recommended that you take a home inventory, which documents your possessions and their worth. Make a list of every valuable item you own, note the price, attach receipts for high-dollar items and take photos. This helps streamline the claims process if a covered event damages or destroys your property. Make sure you store this list in a safety deposit box and/or cloud drive so it’s secure in the event that your home is completely destroyed.

Learn more about protecting everyone and everything you love. Call Mitchell & Mitchell Insurance Agency at (415) 883-2525 for more information on Novato home insurance.

The Hammer Clause and How It Affects Your Right to Settle

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Published on: February 13, 2014

If you have a professional liability policy, you should be aware of your rights to settle in the event that a claim occurs. Many policies include what’s called a “hammer clause”. This allows the insurance company to cap its liability to the amount for which the claim could have been settled plus any claims expenses incurred. If the insured chooses to continue to fight the matter, he or she will be responsible for any additional settlement and fees incurred.

A sample “hammer clause” may read:

“Insurer will not settle or compromise any claim without the consent of the insured. If, however, the insured refuses to consent to a settlement or compromise recommended by insurer and elects to contest such claim or continue legal proceedings in connection with such claim, then insurer’s liability for the claim shall not exceed the amount for which the claim could have been so settled, plus claims expenses incurred up to the date of such refusal.”

A policy that does not have a hammer clause allows the insured to have more control in a claim and the insurance company must respect the insured’s “final say”. In our Lawyer’s Professional Liability program through CNA, the policy form has recently been revised to remove the hammer clause. According to CNA, “the prior language gave the Company the option to walk from a claim at the amount that the claim could have been settled, thereby limiting its exposure to an acceptable settlement regardless of the consent of the insured. [...] Having it [the hammer clause] in the policy was a Company advantage. Having it removed is an insured’s advantage.” Make sure you read your professional liability policy’s insuring agreement so that you know what your rights are around settling a claim.

2014 California Lawyer’s Professional Liability Insurance Report

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Published on: February 10, 2014
When it comes to the relationship between lawyers’ liability claims and the economy, the trend is fairly predictable. A rough financial period usually breeds a multiyear spike in professional liability claims, and the 2008 financial crisis and resulting dismal economy are no exception. In 2011 the number of claims increased 6 to 10 percent from the previous year, and in 2012 they jumped another 10 to 20 percent, according to a survey by risk management consulting firm Ames & Gough. But as the economy slowly stabilizes, 2013 seemed to be the first year indicative of a true leveling off.One obvious reason for more claims during an economic dip is that when things go wrong financially, people look to find fault. For example, real estate malpractice claims have been off the charts in California (and nationwide) which is easily traceable to the collapse of the market over the past five or six years, according to Randall A. Miller, a legal malpractice attorney and founding partner of Miller LLP in Los Angeles. “Obviously, the housing market generated a lot of claims against lawyers for errors committed during the course of those ill-fated transactions,” he says. “In fact, I’m impressed by the resiliency of this trend. Most of the legal work that resulted in malpractice claims would have been undertaken by 2007 or 2008. And yet, this work is continuing to generate lawsuits, which is emblematic of the depth of the real estate market fallout in California.”

Another unusual trend Miller has noticed of late is the emergence of very-high-dollar claims – some estimated at more than $50 million. Although he thinks this may be an aberration in the long term, it also highlights how intricate and high-stakes today’s transactions are, even compared to just ten years ago. “IP protection, for example, can be very expensive,” says Miller. “If a lawyer commits an error in an IP deal, he or she incurs a high amount of risk. It can be devastating for an insurance company.”

More generally, though, Miller expects that as the economy gets back on track, the number of claims will return to prerecession levels. One of the reasons for this evening out is a noticeable return to normalcy for many attorneys regarding their practice areas. Recession-time claims are often the result of what Mitchell & Mitchell professional liability program manager Dan McKenna calls “dabbling” – lawyers venturing outside of their usual practices.

“Now that the economy is more stable, my staff and I have seen less ‘dabbling’ ” says McKenna. “During the recession years, a lot of attorneys were forced to start taking any work that would walk in the door. For example, an attorney who does estate planning but whose work is slow would take on a personal injury case, which he might not know much about. Now we’re back to people showing more focus in their specialized practice areas, which is a really good thing for the legal profession.”


California Liability Insurance for Lawyers

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Published on: January 21, 2014

Professionals MeetingLawyers work closely with their clients, gathering very personal details with which they build cases upon in preparation for trials. This puts lawyers and law firms at a unique risk for loss or corruption of sensitive information and legal records. Errors and omissions insurance (E&O), also known as legal liability insurance, is designed to protect legal professionals from this risk and from litigation associated with data loss, negligence or failure to produce results due to negligence.

Some risks that lawyers may be liable for include:

  • Identity theft of clients
  • Misplaced legal documents
  • Loss or corruption of files due to hacking
  • Forensic and crisis management expenses after a loss
  • Failure to perform a job properly

Though these instances do not frequently occur, they do happen and they can add up to be extremely costly. E&O insurance is not required by law (though lawyers must inform clients if they carry this type of policy or not), but law firms would be wise to consider this specialized coverage for the specialized risks they face. Lawyers can best serve the public when they themselves are protected from charges of negligence or some other form of error that affected a client.

Without E&O insurance, a law firm may face financial ruin and a tarnished reputation in the event of an unfavorable legal malpractice judgment. The expenses incurred after just one incident could skyrocket well into the hundreds of thousands of dollar, possibly closing the doors of a law firm for good.

Lawyers are all too familiar with liability situations and should take steps to protect themselves from such cases as well. Policies range in price and coverage, and are offered to both law firms and individual lawyers. Contact your independent agent to learn more about E&O options to protect your livelihood and reputation from your unique workplace risks.

Do you want to learn more about protecting your law firm? Call us at 888-512-8878 for a quote on California liability insurance for lawyers.

Liability Insurance for California Professionals

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Published on: December 17, 2013

For cost effective professional liability insurance, California businesses and professionals can depend on Mitchell & Mitchell Insurance of Novato.

At Mitchell & Mitchell Insurance we strive to guarantee that our clients have the highest quality coverage strategies that they both need and deserve. We work hard to recognize extreme risk exposures that could put a strain on your business venture—one source of risk that requires specialized attention is Professional Liability.

As a professional, you know that liability is serious—it’s a crucial component to maintaining your business, your finances and your overall reputation within the community. For professionals in the specialized medical field, such as doctors, surgeons, dentists and chiropractors, this form of coverage is best known as malpractice insurance; while lawyers, accountants, architects and engineers have come to know this additional protection as professional liability insurance.

California professionals, like professionals across the globe, make mistakes. Even professionals who are equipped with the best employees, the best management team and have the best risk management practices in place have been known to make an error. No matter what type of business you are involved in or how specialized your services are, your coverage needs come down to one thing—if you are in the business of providing a service to your client for a fee, you are vulnerable to professional liability risks.

Having customized professional liability insurance in California will provide you with the protection needed in the event that your service resulted in physical, mental or financial loss for your client. Typically, professional liability will cover court fees and defense costs, even if the lawsuit you are battling is unwarranted.

Each business and every professional is different, which is exactly why your professional liability coverage should be unique. You’ve worked so hard to build a positive, credible reputation for yourself—why let it be exposed to liability risk?

Contact Mitchell & Mitchell Insurance today to learn more about your options for professional liability insurance in California.

School is in session. Watch for school buses!

Categories: Insurance, Uncategorized
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Published on: September 20, 2013
8/26/2013 8:17:10 AM
Now that the school year is just about underway, you will certainly be seeing a lot of school buses on the road.  Whether your child is on one of those school buses or you are merely another driver sharing the road with the buses, you will want to pay extra attention to safety.  

When you see school buses on the road, you might cringe at the thought of getting stuck behind them while they make their seemingly endless stops.  Sure, it can be a pain.  Finding an alternate route is in your best interest especially if you want to get to your destination on time.  However, if you can not find a different way to go you will need to know the rules of following a school bus during its route.

School bus drivers will give you plenty of indications that they will be coming to a stop before they get there.  First, they will turn on their yellow flashing lights so you will know to slow down.  Then, those lights will turn to red which means they are approaching a stop.  You will need to stop completely when those lights are on.  Be careful to not block any intersections and leave enough room behind the bus.  

When the bus is stopped, watch for children getting on and off and for parents who will be waiting for their kids.  Remember that kids will be excited and may not follow the rule of walking in front of the bus to cross the street.  They may take off in different directions.  Stay alert and do not drive off until the bus driver has turned off the red flashers.  And never pass a school bus when it is at a bus stop.

School bus safety is important for everyone who shares the road.  Keep everyone safe by paying extra attention this school year for school buses!

Hiring the Right People Through Social Media

Categories: Insurance, Uncategorized
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Published on: September 20, 2013
8/19/2013 4:44:12 AM

With more than 1/5 of the world making use of it, social media has become a powerful influence in our lives. Often times, we think about using social media when we think about its use in connection with entertainment. We think about using sites like Facebook and Twitter to keep up with updates on our friends and to find information about our favorite movie stars or products. However, businesses are finding very productive ways to use social media. Quite often, businesses are using social media to help them find high quality employees.

Since so many people have either a Facebook account or a Twitter account, employers can easily learn some basic information about potential employees from these sites. For example, an employer can get a basic understanding of the work experience an individual has based on the things that they talk about on Facebook. If in their post they mention things like their proficiency with certain computer programs, or if they even have examples of work that they have done using these programs, an employer can feel more secure in hiring this individual.

An employer can also get a glimpse into the work ethic of the individual that they are considering to hire. If they see that a potential employee is always posting to Facebook or to Twitter during working hours, this might make them want to pass on hiring that employee. If you see in their status that they have multiple updates for games that they are playing on social media sites while they should be working, this is an obvious warning sign.

Employers need to use discretion when making decisions about who they will hire and who they will not hire. There are a lot of laws that are in place to protect the rights of individuals who could be the victim of discrimination. However, the same laws could be used in an inappropriate manner and could result in the employer facing an illegitimate potential discrimination lawsuit. For this reason, it is a good idea for every single employer to have insurance to protect them through the hiring process. If a business currently has this type of insurance, it is always advisable to check back with your insurance agent to make sure that the amount you have is sufficient in order to cover any potential lawsuits.

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