What happens to veterinarians who are presented with a professional liability claim? Those who are insured through the AVMA PLIT–sponsored program have 50 years of experience standing behind them. This year, the AVMA PLIT celebrates five decades of sponsoring insurance solutions for veterinarians. One of the first of its kind, the PLIT was started in 1962 to serve the malpractice insurance needs of AVMA members.
The AVMA founded the Trust as a means to ensure that veterinarians would have an advocate in the management of their claims. Since the 1960s, this has been a vital component of the PLIT–sponsored program. Building on the success of the malpractice insurance program, the PLIT expanded its sponsored program offerings to include veterinary license defense, business owner policies, workers’ compensation, employment practices liability, automobile insurance, and comprehensive personal insurance solutions for AVMA and Student AVMA members.
The security, stability, and strength of the PLIT-sponsored program over the past five decades explain why it is the first choice for many veterinarians and veterinary students for business, malpractice, and personal insurance solutions. Today, more than 56,000 veterinarians participate in the PLIT-sponsored program.
The PLIT’s golden jubilee year began on a high note, with annual malpractice premium rates for primary and excess malpractice coverage decreasing 15 percent for classes I (equine) and II (food animal), and 5 percent for classes III (mixed animal practice) and IV (small animal). A group personal excess liability product was launched to provide another layer of liability protection in addition to homeowners and auto insurance policies.
Supporting future veterinarians
New for this year, the PLIT donated $96,000 for scholarships to assist veterinary students with their overwhelming student debt. The PLIT worked with each college scholarship committee to introduce the scholarship and asked the committees to select qualified recipients. The $96,000 has been disbursed equally to 32 veterinary schools in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean that the Trust representatives visit annually for their educational presentations to the students.
The PLIT also supports several student events, including the annual Student AVMA Symposium and the Opportunities in Equine Practice Seminar, as well as the Veterinary Business Management Association.
Today’s veterinary education would not be complete without instruction on how to avoid allegations of malpractice. The Trust representatives visit veterinary schools every year to educate students about this. Helping further this cause are the PLIT student ambassadors, who serve as a liaison between the PLIT and their schools’ student body, keeping students apprised of the PLIT’s sponsored program and its services, such as student liability coverage.
Anecdotal information from the Trust suggests that most professional liability claims and state board complaints reflect some element of communication breakdown. Data from the veterinary profession in Canada also link formal complaints and malpractice cases with miscommunication. Studies in human medicine indicate that improved communication between doctors and patients is an important factor in reducing the likelihood of malpractice claims.
In an effort to improve client compliance and satisfaction, and to reduce the potential for malpractice claims, the PLIT embarked on a communication education initiative in 2007. This included having Trust representatives participate in the Bayer Animal Health Communication Project, during which they received professional training in delivering communication topics to veterinary groups. These representatives have since gone on to present these communication training modules at regional, state, and local veterinary association meetings. In addition, the PLIT has sponsored a communication expert, Dr. Kathleen Bonvicini, to present the modules at a variety of veterinary meetings.
The PLIT is a key sponsor of the annual AVMA Veterinary Leadership Experience, a multiday program with student and faculty participants from all U.S., Canadian, and Caribbean veterinary schools and colleges. The program stresses the importance of balancing medical and surgical competencies with important life skills such as communication, leadership, and relationship building. The PLIT commitment to providing communication training complements the VLE.
50th anniversary educational program
In 2011, approximately one of every 19 veterinarians reported a potential malpractice claim, which was a 12 percent decrease from 2010. The PLIT believes that one contributing factor to these positive results is the increased emphasis on communication training and risk management tools. The newest PLIT educational program will premiere Aug. 6 at the AVMA Annual Convention in San Diego: “A Privilege to Practice, Strategies for Protection.” Created to educate the entire veterinary team, this program is aimed at reducing the likelihood of a malpractice suit or veterinary board complaint. The program will share the top drivers of claims, and exposures for on-the-job injuries and practice losses—claims that can affect any veterinary team member.
Dr. Richard DeBowes will moderate the program. “When challenging events happen in the lives of veterinary health care team members, it’s good to know that they have the caring support of colleagues and the exceptional protection of insurance carriers offered through the PLIT-sponsored program,” Dr. DeBowes said.
Advocates for the veterinary profession
The PLIT board of trustees consists of seven veterinarians appointed by the AVMA Executive Board and one liaison-trustee from the AVMA. The trustees oversee the PLIT to ensure that the program evolves with the changing needs of the profession. They work closely with the PLIT CEO, Dr. Rodney Johnson, along with advisers who include legal counsel and a consulting actuary.
One key to the PLIT’s success is the team of in-house Trust representatives who work with Dr. Johnson to review all reported malpractice claims, speak to veterinarians regarding potential allegations of negligence, and provide guidance. The representatives—Drs. Linda Ellis, Karen Wernette, and Nina Mouledous—are veterinarians with many years of practice experience. They refer the PLIT–sponsored program’s insurance company to qualified veterinary experts to assist in defense and provide veterinary insight to the insurance carrier and its attorneys.
HUB International Midwest Ltd. has been the insurance broker for the AVMA PLIT since the Trust’s inception. HUB and the PLIT share a vision of being the first choice of veterinarians, offering them the best value over the long term. HUB works on behalf of veterinarians to represent their interests to top-rated insurance carriers, including Zurich American Insurance Co. (professional liability and veterinary license defense), The Hartford (business insurance), Travelers (business insurance), CNA Insurance (employment practices liability insurance), Liberty Mutual (automobile, homeowners, and renters insurance), and Chubb (personal excess liability insurance).
The next 50 years
“It is a great honor and responsibility to serve as the PLIT Trust chair during our 50th anniversary,” said Dr. R.C. Ebert II. “With more than 200 years of combined experience in our profession, the PLIT trustees are proud to support the PLIT’s mission: to provide a valuable AVMA member service that protects the assets and reputations of the participants and enhances the image of the profession.
“Also, we have been very fortunate to have been associated with HUB, the same broker for the past 50 years. Your team of advocates—the PLIT trustees and Trust representatives, with the expertise of HUB—plan to enhance our services in several areas, including claim analysis and personal liability.”
When asked about the PLIT’s next 50 years, Dr. Ebert responded, “Our goal remains solid—operate as veterinarians serving veterinarians, sponsoring an insurance program that offers the very best in asset and business protection.”