By Robin Stride
Angry doctors who find their business insurance policies will not cover them for the Covid-19 interruption to their practices may be able to seek redress if a likely legal case proves successful.
Urgent legal advice has been launched by the British Dental Association (BDA) in respect of the ‘vast majority of insurers’ who it complains are not paying insurance claims of its members for business interruption during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It has instructed international law firm Brown Rudnick LLP to examine insurance policies affecting practices and is gathering relevant evidence from practitioners on the full range of polices in the sector.
BDA officers have has also been liaising with the BMA’s private practice committee about the problem and widely with other professional groups – such as opticians – whose members might have thought they were covered but now find themselves high and dry and out of pocket.
The BDA said: ‘Legal advice will shape the guidance that the BDA will be offering a profession that has been blind-sided by a lack of effective insurance response during a period that has seen routine care suspended and cash flow for many practices fall to zero.’
Noting that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has stated that most policies with basic cover would not respond to Covid-19 losses, it now seeks ‘legal clarity’ on business interruption insurance in an attempt to provide certainty for businesses and insurers.
It added: ‘The BDA has acted following uncertainty over whether the FCA move will help or hinder practices, given the breadth of policy wording covering the different sectors of the UK economy and the urgent cash crisis facing businesses.
‘This has been made more acute in light of the indication that a court hearing will not take place until July.
‘Dentist leaders have also indicated they hope that instructing lawyers now will give them a better understanding of their legal position and allow them to consider representations to the FCA as part of the regulator’s recently announced course of action.
‘Following the conclusion zof that process, an understanding of the legal position will give the BDA a strong foundation upon which to engage with insurers and the FCA.’
BDA chairman Mick Armstrong said: ‘The FCA has begun its own legal process to weigh up policies covering almost every business sector in Britain. However, it is clear this will now take months.
‘We’re not prepared to be a passive observer and wait on a one-size-fits-all court determination that could leave the practices that millions of patients depend on dangerously exposed.’
He said the BDA needed to know if there were realistic options to get practices the insurance payments they desperately needed and they thought they were signing up to.
BDA polling before dentists were allowed to re-open this month found over 70% of practices said they could only remain financially sustainable for the next three months.