Counselor risk exposure: low frequency, high severity


Although the frequency of malpractice claims asserted against counselors has been low in recent years, the severity of those claims has been high. Between January 1, 2003 and December 31, 2012 the average total incurred costs, including indemnity paid and legal expenses to defend, was $176,712.

That is a key finding of a new risk study for counselors, Understanding Counselor Liability Risk, released by Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO), a division of Aon Affinity, the affinity business of Aon plc and insurance provider CNA.

"HPSO and CNA are dedicated to educating counselors regarding their risk exposures," stated HPSO President Michael Loughran. "The first of its kind, the new report provides counselors with vital information regarding claims impacting their profession and arms them with risk management recommendations that can help them manage these risks."

The report contains an analysis of four key areas of risk for counsellors: professional liability exposures, defense of licensing board investigations, deposition assistance and record request claims. The findings are based on claims paid by CNA on behalf of HPSO-insured counselors that closed over a 10-year period The report also includes legal case studies, risk management recommendations and selected highlights from the 2013 Qualitative Counselor Work Profile Survey.

"By sharing claim information, identifying causes of loss, and incorporating recommendations into the report, we can help enhance counselors' risk management and client safety efforts," said Bruce Dmytrow, vice president, Risk Control, at CNA.
More than half (56.7%) of licensing board complaints were successfully defended on behalf of the counselor, resulting in the board rendering no action.

Clients most often sought counseling for marital discord (31.7%). Marriage/family counselors accounted for the largest percentage of closed claims.

A survey among 3,123 counselors in the HSPO/CNA program found that 71.9% of counselors reporting a professional liability or defense of license claim were 51 years of age or older.

"We consistently strive to provide relevant resources to our members that assist them in their practice," said ACA chief executive officer Richard Yep. "The data published by HPSO and CNA in their new report is intended to help counselors prevent incidents and improve client outcomes."

The HPSO/CNA Professional Liability Insurance Program provides coverage to individual counselors and counseling practices. As of 2013, the HPSO/CNA program insured approximately 75,000 counselors and counseling practices nationwide.

Malpractice Claims, HPSO, Aon Affinity, Aon, CNA