6 Risks Lab Technicians Face Without Professional Liability Insurance

March 12, 2021 •

Lab technicians are not commonly mentioned in discussions of professional liability insurance. But this doesn’t mean you don’t need it, especially as medical laboratories become increasingly inundated with tests due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For a single lab handling thousands of tests per year, there is tremendous potential for exposure to legal proceedings.

6 Risks Lab Technicians Face Without Professional Liability Insurance

1. Legal Liability for Plaintiff Losses

When a patient is harmed by a doctor’s mistake during surgery or diagnosis, the patient may be able to recover damages in a medical malpractice suit. Clinical malpractice follows a similar trajectory. The key difference is in the defendant – an individual lab technician or medical laboratory rather than a surgeon or doctor.

Lab technicians and technologists risk assuming legal liability if a patient is injured or killed because of incorrect lab readings. This liability reaches to birth defects as well, provided they were misdiagnosed or missed altogether during prenatal genetic testing. You can therefore see that plenty of opportunities exist for a patient to suffer harm when lab results get confused, skewed, or are otherwise read incorrectly.

How Insurance Helps

Data shows that diagnostic errors are pretty common, occurring more than 10 million times annually in the U.S. Co-pays force patients to fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for medical treatment, on top of enormous medical insurance premiums, so they will rarely let errors go unanswered. This opens the door for lawsuits, and although liability insurance doesn’t prevent such claims, they do keep you from having to personally pay plaintiff losses out of your own pockets.

It’s important to know compensation can be awarded for a variety of hardships and costs related to injury, including:

  • Medical bills, including inpatient hospital stays and operating procedures
  • Ambulance rides
  • Medical equipment, such as oxygen machines and wheelchairs
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Income lost from an inability to work
  • Money paid for treatment, including prescription medications

2. Responsible for Paying Legal Costs

Let’s say the lab where you work routinely tests third-party employees for drug use. If you make a mistake during processing and end up with a false positive on a particular employee, that person will be fired and likely sue your company. And although you tested the specimen at your place of employment, you’re not excluded from being named and sued individually.

What does this mean? You’ll need your own legal representation, and without the proper insurance coverage, you will be required to pay for attorneys out of your own pocket. If you are unable to do so, you won’t have a team of professionals to argue on your behalf. This extends outside of the courtroom; even if a case doesn’t go before a judge, liability insurance will pay for attorney fees and any settlement that may be reached.

3. A Permanently Stained Reputation

Insurance can protect you from the stain of not being adequately prepared for the worst of circumstances. Having the right coverage in place demonstrates you value your good name and are willing to defend it. This is crucial when and if you choose to look for a new job.

4. Loss of Income

Lawsuits can continue indefinitely and, when your presence is required for depositions or court appearances, take you away from work. This can hinder your ability to earn a living and directly cut into your wages. Liability insurance can protect your income and help compensate for lost wages as you coordinate with counsel to defend yourself.

5. Reduced Knowledge of Potential Risks

Your insurance agent is able to do more than help you purchase the right policy. He or she is also on-hand to identify potential risks in the lab where you work. They can, in a manner of speaking, assess your risks based on the information you provide concerning:

  • The lab’s safety protocol
  • Sterilization measures required of all employees
  • The number of tests run within a specific timeframe

This can also open your eyes to potential risks and help you find ways to reduce them. For instance, when handling or labeling specimens, you may find a new method to mitigate contamination or inaccuracies. The point is that without the ability to look at your situation from a different perspective, such as that provided by your insurance agent, you won’t recognize a potential risk until it’s too late.

6. Vulnerability to Privacy Breaches

We tend to think of medical professionals as only being susceptible to claims of mishandling or misdiagnosis. But they’re also entrusted with more personal client information than ever before. Labs and lab technicians fall under the purview of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and are responsible for keeping protected health information (PHI) private and secure. A breach of this information could be followed by legal action; professional liability insurance for lab technicians can protect you from these claims just as those related to lab errors.

Professional liability insurance is the only way to safeguard yourself against patient-filed lawsuits. Without it, you’ll be forced to pay out-of-pocket for attorney fees, court-imposed orders, and settlements. This can quickly eat a hole in your savings and simultaneously harm your good name.

Lab techs are in higher demand than ever with thousands of COVID tests pouring in each day. Make sure you are protected from mistakes at work during this unusually demanding time.

NOW Insurance provides professional liability insurance for lab techs that is simple, fast and affordable. You can get a quote in about 3 minutes from our online application.

Learn more about insurance for healthcare practitioners and allied health workers