Trap of the Week: Avoiding gaps in malpractice insurance coverage

Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023
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From time to time, eJournal features excerpts from the expanded Seventh Edition of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s award-winning malpractice prevention handbook, Traps for the Unwary, which looks at some of the malpractice hazards for attorneys who practice in a general, civil practice. This Trap of the Week looks at avoiding gaps in malpractice insurance coverage.

Avoiding gaps in malpractice insurance coverage: At this time of year when many legal malpractice insurance policies are due to expire and be renewed or replaced, it is important for attorneys to make sure there is no gap between the end of one policy period and the start of the next. 

Most legal malpractice insurance policies in Massachusetts are written on a “claims-made” basis, as opposed to an “occurrence” basis, such as liability policies commonly written for automobile, homeowners or commercial insurance. A claims-made policy only provides coverage for claims that are first reported during the policy term regardless of when the alleged negligence occurred, as long as it was after the policy’s “retro date.” If there is a gap between the end of one policy and the start of the next policy, the new insurer is likely to assign a new “retro date” that starts when the new policy begins. That would mean that claims that arise from acts or omissions before the start of the new policy would not be covered at all!  

Therefore, attorneys and their firms should be careful to never permit a gap between coverage periods.

Traps For the Unwary editors James E. Harvey Jr. and John F.  Brosnan from O’Malley, Harvey and Brosnan LLC encourage alert readers to send them suggestions for “traps” to include in future editions of the eJournal — and to help MBA members avoid pitfalls.


The expanded Seventh Edition of Traps for the Unwary was made available to MBA members as a free e-publication during the MBA’s 2021-22 association year. From dangers that arise in uncommon circumstances to hard-to-see risks that are masked by a complex matrix of laws and regulations, Traps for the Unwary is an indispensable reference tool that benefits both lawyer and client. The original Traps for the Unwary, published in 1988, earned a first place Award of Achievement from the American Bar Association for service to the bar.

MBA members can access and download their e-copy from their MBA profile. (See detailed instructions at