What is Excess Coverage?

Excess coverage is professional liability coverage that provides coverage limits above, or in excess of, the statutorily required coverage limits of $300,000. Since it is not mandatory, excess coverage is underwritten – that is, law firms must submit an application for review to obtain a quote for coverage. Unlike the mandatory PLF coverage, which is individual to each attorney, excess coverage is purchased to cover law firms (including sole practitioner firms); the cost can vary depending on a variety of factors. You can obtain excess coverage from the PLF or from insurers in the commercial market.


Does My Firm Need Excess Coverage?

Likely, yes. While the $300,000 primary limits have remained the same for nearly thirty years, the cost of claims has escalated over that period and so has the frequency of claims in excess of the mandatory limits. Claims have become more complex, and the value of matters handled by lawyers has increased. Certain areas of law now present a much higher risk for excess claims.

In addition to evaluating the risk exposure of your firm’s legal work, consider whether your personal assets may be at risk if you have a large claim. Many lawyers feel that the mandatory $300,000 does not afford enough protection.

When deciding if excess coverage is appropriate for your firm, ask yourself these questions: Do your current malpractice coverage limits match the risk of exposure in your law practice? Will your personal assets be protected if you have an excess claim? If your answer to either of those questions is “no,” “maybe” or “I’m not sure,” make it a priority to secure excess coverage for your firm. PLF Excess staff can help you assess your firm’s risk exposure and guide you through the process of applying for PLF Excess Coverage.


Available PLF Excess Coverage

The PLF offers excess coverage to Oregon law firms on an optional underwritten basis. Limits of coverage are available up to $9.7 million.  The excess coverage plan follows the PLF’s Primary Coverage Plan, with few differences.  The PLF’s Excess Program is 100 percent reinsured with top-rated reinsurers.  

New firm applicants can apply for up to $1.7 million in coverage. After a firm has maintained $1.7 million in coverage for one full calendar year (with the PLF or another carrier), the firm can apply for coverage up to $4.7 million. A firm will need to have excess coverage at the $4.7 million level for two full years (with the PLF or another carrier) before applying for $9.7 million in coverage. 

Excess coverage is on a claims-made basis, with defense costs included in the coverage limits. A copy of the 2022 Claims Made Excess Plan is available here.  

Benefits of PLF Excess Coverage

Depending on the circumstances, firms with limited or no prior acts coverage will receive a discount of up to 50 percent on the cost of their first year of PLF Excess Coverage.
Beginning in 2013, the PLF added a Cyber Liability & Breach Response Endorsement (“Endorsement”) to all PLF Excess Coverage plans. The Endorsement provides coverage for information security and privacy liability, privacy breach response services, regulatory defense and penalties, website media content liability, cyber extortion, and crisis management and public relations services. The Endorsement covers many claims that would otherwise be excluded under both PLF primary and excess plans.  The 2022 Cyber Liability and Breach Response Endorsement is available here.

Limits Available

The limits provided under the Endorsement are different than the Excess Coverage limits purchased by a law firm.  Limits under the Endorsement depend entirely on the size of the law firm:
  • $100,000 for firms with 1-10 attorneys
  • $250,000 for firms with 11 or more attorneys

If your law firm requires higher limits for cyber liability, please contact us at excess@osbplf.org as those limits are available on a separately underwritten basis.
Compared with PLF primary coverage - which covers individual attorneys - PLF excess coverage is issued to law firms and is designed to stack on top of  PLF primary coverage limits (of $300,000).  Although the  full coverage limit under the PLF Primary Coverage Plan is usually available to each individual attorney on an annual basis, when Claims against an attorney are “related” to Claims against one or more other attorneys, the maximum total amount the PLF will pay for all such Related Claims under the Primary Plan is $300,000, plus any applicable defense allowance(s). An attorney who has PLF Excess coverage is protected from situations where only one limit applies to multiple claims because it will  “drop down” to provide additional coverage for that claim and attorney (subject to the firm’s excess coverage limits).
Under the terms of the mandatory PLF primary coverage (the basic $300,000 coverage), extended reporting coverage (ERC or “tail” coverage) is automatically issued at the same coverage level at no additional cost when an attorney ends coverage.  Primary ERC continues indefinitely, and there is no time limit for reporting claims. PLF excess coverage works differently.  When a firm does not continue purchasing PLF excess coverage, it may be offered the option to buy excess ERC. Eligibility to purchase an extended reporting endorsement, the amount of the additional assessment for such coverage, and the period during which Claims must be First Made under the endorsement are determined by the PLF’s underwriting department. For more details, please see Section XV of the Claims Made Excess Plan.

General Excess Questions

No. As explained above, the Excess Program bears all of its own costs and is not subsidized by the PLF's mandatory, Primary Program. Excess claims are paid by the reinsurers and, if necessary, by the Excess Program’s surplus. The ongoing administrative costs of the Excess Program are paid from the Excess Program's regular annual assessments.
The PLF has adopted a set of underwriting criteria, which are carefully applied to the application and claims record for each firm. If a firm meets our underwriting guidelines, the firm is offered a quotation for coverage.

We believe that the great majority of Oregon law firms will meet our underwriting criteria. If it appears that a firm does not meet the criteria, the firm is notified and is permitted to submit additional information in its favor or withdraw the application. If a firm is not accepted by the PLF's Excess Program, coverage should be available from other commercial sources.

Because the PLF's Excess Program is written on an optional basis, we can only succeed if careful underwriting guidelines are applied. In order for the PLF to offer stable, long-term excess coverage, it may be necessary to decline the applications of a few firms that do not meet the PLF’s risk profile.
It depends. The PLF's Excess Program offers prior acts coverage to new applicant firms that have a current Excess policy in place with another carrier. However, the PLF may limit prior acts coverage in certain cases for new applicant firms with a previous history of claims or for other underwriting reasons. Prior acts coverage for individual attorneys in the firm is limited to work done for the firm or designated predecessor firm.  New firm applicants that have not carried Excess previously (with the PLF or a commercial carrier) will have a retroactive date inception (RDI) limitation placed on their coverage that limits the coverage to work performed after the RDI.
Firm mergers and splits that have already occurred should be explained on the Excess Program Application. In most cases of firm mergers, the PLF is able to offer prior acts coverage to all members of the merged firms so long as underwriting criteria are met. In the case of firm splits, the old firm probably should obtain extended reporting coverage (“tail coverage”) from its prior excess carrier, although it may be possible for the surviving portions of a split firm to obtain PLF excess coverage with prior acts coverage.
In certain cases, the PLF's Excess Program can offer coverage to Oregon-based multistate firms with branch offices or Oregon firms with non-Oregon attorney members. This coverage includes a single aggregate "drop-down" coverage limit of $300,000, subject to a $5,000 deductible. The cost of this drop-down coverage in 2022 is $3,300 per non-Oregon or out-of-state lawyer. However, the PLF can only provide this coverage if the size of the branch office is small relative to the Oregon offices. Coverage for branch offices is possible only in certain states.
Yes, although many of the exclusions in the Excess Plan are similar to the exclusions in the primary PLF Claims Made Plan, the exclusions have been modified to apply to the Excess Plan and should be read carefully. For example, because the Excess Plan is issued to law firms rather than to individual attorneys, the exclusions were modified to clarify which ones apply to all firm members and which apply only to certain firm members. See Section VII of the PLF Excess Plan to learn what additional exclusions apply that are not contained in the PLF Claims Made Plan.
Yes. Firms may pay their excess assessment in three payments, together with a service charge equal to $25 plus interest of 7 percent per annum on the outstanding balance. We will provide additional details to firms at the time a quote is offered.