Can Lab Technicians Be Sued for Malpractice?
When you make the decision to pursue a career as a lab technician, malpractice insurance is probably not at the top of the list of requirements you’ll have to meet to fulfill your dream. However, lab technicians can be sued for malpractice, so it’s important to protect your career by purchasing professional liability insurance (also known as medical malpractice).
Can Lab Technicians Be Sued for Malpractice?
Lab Work Is Critical for Medical Decisions
It is estimated that at least 70% of all medical decisions are based on the results of common diagnostic tests, such as those conducted in a laboratory setting. Blood tests, urine tests, and tissue biopsies are heavily relied upon by the medical community to help them determine what path to take in a patient’s care. If a lab test is flawed or a technician makes a mistake, a patient could become extremely ill, or even die.
As such, laboratory technicians are at risk of being sued for malpractice if their work results in a physician making the wrong diagnosis or delivering a treatment that’s harmful to a patient. Even if you don’t intend to harm the patient, and you never even saw the patient, you could be sued as part of the laboratory as a whole or as an individual. The laboratory you work for undoubtedly has insurance that will partially cover your actions to some degree, but it may not be enough. Lab techs should have their own policy that has their own interests as number one priority. Remember, your employer’s insurance is first and foremost to protect the company.
Liability Increases as More Tests Are Developed
Science is progressing all the time, and along with it, more tests are developed to diagnose diseases, identify birth defects, determine paternity, and more. And with new diseases, such as COVID-19, tests are developed and deployed rapidly. The liability faced by laboratory technicians isn’t going to decrease anytime soon. In fact, you’re probably going to see the risk increase as you become more responsible for conducting various tests, and tests that may be new to the market and in very high demand with an expected fast turnaround, such as during a global pandemic. Even if you are sued and eventually cleared, you’ll still have legal bills to pay, time lost at work, potentially reputational harm, along with other expenses.
Professional Liability Insurance for Laboratory Technicians
Malpractice Insurance Basics
As mentioned above, the lab you work for will already have professional and general liability insurance in place to protect the company from malpractice lawsuits. However, this coverage may not fully protect you as an individual, particularly if you are singled out as the technician who made the error that caused a patient harm. Moreover, you won’t have any control over the lawsuit itself, so if the laboratory settles, so do you, even if you’re not guilty.
By purchasing your own professional liability insurance policy, though, your interests are the top priority from your own insurance company. They will provide legal experts to represent you. Additionally, you can purchase enough insurance to cover all legal expenses and potential monetary awards to ensure your career is fully protected. You won’t be subject to the limits of your employer’s liability policy.
Amount of Coverage You Need
There is no set amount of liability coverage for laboratory technicians, but most professionals choose a policy that gives them a malpractice limit of $1 million. While you can obtain higher limits, up to $4 million, most technicians find that the lower policy covers their needs, especially if they’re also covered by a liability policy through the laboratory. You can also add on other important coverage to this basic liability policy that increases your protection.
For example, you will want coverage for your licensing board defense, HIPAA fines and penalties, deposition fees and expenses, medical expenses, first aid expenses, and damage to property of others, and consumer notification expenses, among others. These coverages are included in a malpractice insurance policy with NOW Insurance. Others may be added on as necessary for an extra premium, such as cyber sub-limits, hired and non-owned auto, defense outside limits and legal media sublimit. Consult your insurance provider to determine how much insurance you need based on your risk.
Types of Laboratory Technicians Who Need Liability Insurance
You could be thinking that you don’t deal with the public, so why would you need liability insurance? As explained earlier, you actually do deal with the public as a laboratory technician, even if you don’t see them face to face. If you are a technician in any of the following types of laboratories, you need to purchase a professional liability insurance policy.
- Drug screening laboratories
- Pathology laboratories
- Hematology laboratories
- Clinical microbiology laboratories
- Clinical biochemistry laboratories
- Genetic laboratories
You may even want to consider purchasing liability insurance if you work in a laboratory that works for law enforcement, especially if you’re testing DNA and blood samples. If your lab results are the reason someone gets convicted and it later turns out the tests were contaminated or flawed in any way, you could be sued for malpractice. It’s better to have insurance and not need it than to need it and not be covered.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t need professional liability insurance as a laboratory technician because you don’t actually examine patients. You could easily be swept up in a lawsuit if you or your lab make a mistake. NOW Insurance can help you protect yourself from the financial impact of malpractice lawsuits. We provide insurance that is simple, fast and affordable.
Looking to expand your horizons? Check out our related article: Lab Techs: Is a Travel Job Right for you?
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