Social workers serve an important purpose in their daily work, but given the circumstances of their environment, they are open to finding themselves in possible legal matters. Even the most skilled and experienced social worker runs the risk of facing claims brought by those they care for and/or their family members. While most errors don’t lead to heavy consequences, the ones that do can lead to major legal issues.
Just recently it was announced that Riverside County in Southern California had to pay out more than $11 million between two lawsuits related to negligence against social services organizations. With this in mind, it’s important to be aware of some of the major causes of claims against social services so to avoid legal claims.
The Role of Insurance Premiums
It’s important to note that relatively few social workers are named in ethics-related lawsuits or claims. What’s more, even fewer encounter serious criminal charges. One way this is evidenced is due in part to the low incidence of ethical issues in the annual premium social workers are charged for liability insurance. Social Services Insurance programs are set in place to financially protect workers and their organizations in the event of a legal claim, but premiums are still relatively low.
Even though social workers can take heart that claims are low and insurance is available to protect them, the reality is that a number of social workers are still named in lawsuits. Individuals in the social service industry have found themselves on the receiving end of complaints related to engaging in sexual relationships with current or former clients, falsifying documents, disclosing confidential or privileged information, committing financial fraud, or starting a business relationship with a client. Let’s dive into these a little more.
Social workers can be sued when a private relationship they began with a client or multiple clients is brought to light. This crosses the line as a social worker is prohibited from getting too personally close with a client. Beyond engaging in a romantic or sexual relationship with clients, social workers are also legally prohibited from developing over-friendly or business-related relationships.
A social worker can be sued in the event that a client of theirs commits suicide or harms others. Parents and family members have brought cases against social workers under these instances, claiming that the social worker could have done more to prevent the event from happening. While social workers are not directly responsible for harm or death to others, including their clients, parents and family can still claim that they had the opportunity to take steps to prevent these events from happening.
Sometimes social workers make honest mistakes without intention. But there are times in which a social workers makes a premeditated effort to deceive their clients and their families out of money. Financial fraud, while not common, still plays a role in claims related to social workers. Examples of claims highlight how social workers have redirected payments from their clients to their personal bank account rather than the service they represent. This comes with a price as social workers found guilty have been hit with fines, service hours or even time in prison.
About Tangram Insurance Services
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