Here are a few very brief examples of easily preventable lawsuits that the NASW Risk Retention Group has defended that never should have occurred. A basic understanding and observance of practice ethics and common sense would have precluded these cases from becoming claims and lawsuits. Note that all three lawsuits involved obvious direct or indirect boundary violations, that are a result of extremely poor judgment.
The House Sitter and the Driver
A social worker employed a female client as a house sitter and a male client as a personal driver. The male client drove the social worker in the social worker’s car to the airport for the social worker to begin a vacation. The male client drove the social worker’s car back to the social worker’s house where the female client was house-sitting. The male client raped the female client. The female client sued the social worker and the male client went to prison.
A social worker treated a recovering substance abuse hairdresser. Within a few months, the social worker allowed the hairdresser to move into and live in the social worker’s house and perform house cleaning and hair treatments in exchange for no rent and free therapy. The hairdresser sued the social worker for malpractice.
A male social worker treated family clients consisting of a husband, wife, and their three minor children. During treatment, the social worker had admitted an ongoing sexual affair with the wife, and possible sexual abuse of the children, subjecting each member of the family to pain and suffering. A lawsuit resulted in separate settlement agreements with special counsel assigned for the resolution of the 3 children’s cases through probate court and payment for probate court guardian ad litem fees to supervise children until majority age 21 within that state.
The key to your peace of mind and financial protection is three-fold:
- Buy comprehensive Professional Liability, General Liability, and Cyber liability insurance policies. If you have employees, consider buying an EPLI policy as well.
- Read and compare the policy form language. Do not rely on opinions from other peers and associates, because we have found that frequently they are unaware of the policy complexities. Many contain strict definitions and loopholes that can leave you unprotected.
- Study the NASW content on ethics, practice management, and risk management.