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Nursing homes required to have liability insurance

Virginia may be the first state in the country to require nursing homes to have liability insurance.

Gov. Bob McDonnell signed legislation March 13 to require minimum limits of liability insurance coverage for nursing homes.

Sen. William M. Stanley, R-Moneta, sponsored similar bills for three years before the measure won approval this year.

“It’s one of a kind,” Stanley said. “I can’t find anything like it in other states.”

Senate Bill 750 will require nursing homes to maintain $1 million in general liability coverage and professional liability coverage up to the medical malpractice cap, which increases every year. Failure to maintain the minimum coverage would result in revocation of a facility’s license.

Assisted living facilities will not be subject to the same insurance requirement, but they are required to disclose to residents whether or not they have insurance coverage. The state Board of Social Services will establish a minimum level of coverage.

Virginia Beach plaintiff’s lawyer Carlton F. Bennett was among attorneys with the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association who supported the change. “We’ve run into nursing homes with no liability coverage; we’ve had nursing homes with less than $1 million in liability coverage,” he said.

Bennett said he once obtained a $750,000 judgment against an assisted care facility without insurance. “We could never collect it,” he said.

The bill that emerged addressed concerns from associations representing both nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Some assisted living homes are so small they would not be able to afford the coverage, so an exception was carved out, according to Stanley and Bennett.

The new law takes effect July 1.

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