What is a retroactive date?
A retroactive date, or retroactive insurance, is a feature of claims-made policies (professional liability or errors and omissions) that determines whether your policy will cover losses that occurred in the past. If damages happened before this date, any ensuing legal judgment, settlement, or attorney fees will be your responsibility.
In cases where you’ve purchased a policy for the first time, your retroactive insurance date is the same as the date your policy started. However, if you had one or more professional liability or E&O insurance policies in the past, your retroactive date would be the earliest date from which you continuously kept your coverage active.
Why is a retroactive date important?
Your claims-made retroactive date is important because it determines how far back in time an incident can occur for your policy to still protect you. Claims-made insurance policies only cover liability claims that surface while your policy is active. The original loss can occur in the past, even many years in the past. But for it to provide a continuous safety net, you must avoid any gaps in insurance coverage.
An important consideration: Dropping your professional liability insurance policy for even a few days or weeks can have damaging consequences many years in the future if an incident occurs during the gap. Costly legal expenses might fall entirely on you instead of on your insurance company if you don’t keep your policy active at all times.
Maintaining a retroactive date with a new policy or insurer
You can update your policy or switch insurers if you believe you can get a better price or service and still maintain the same retroactive date. However, always clarify with your new insurer what your retroactive date will be.
If you’ve maintained continuous coverage for many years, then make sure the insurer sets your retroactive date to the earliest date from which you’ve been continuously insured, not the inception date of your new policy. This will give you a much broader safety net, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in legal expenses should you ever get sued.
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