When Are Lab Technicians Liable? Five Reasons to Carry Professional Liability Insurance
When most people think of medical malpractice, they don’t think of lab technicians. Unfortunately, as more lab tests become available to diagnose medical conditions, laboratory technicians have an increased risk of getting sued if they make a mistake that leads to patient harm. Moreover, if a patient sues for malpractice, they usually include everyone involved in their care, including laboratory technicians, in their lawsuit. Malpractice insurance can help protect your career if you’re caught up in a lawsuit.
Five Reasons to Carry Professional Liability Insurance
This is the biggest reason laboratory technicians need professional liability insurance because lab mistakes have frequently been the cause of direct harm to a patient. For example, a tissue biopsy that tests positive for cancer could lead to the amputation of a limb, but what happens if that positive was false? The limb can’t be reattached, so the patient has suffered irreparable harm. Even if you weren’t responsible for the error, if you were involved, you could be held responsible.
The converse is also true: if a test is falsely negative and the patient delays treatment because they’ve been told they don’t need it, you can be sued for the flawed test if the patient’s condition worsens because they weren’t treated. You can also be held liable for lost employment opportunities if a person is denied employment because a drug test came back positive when the true results were negative. You can see how small mistakes lead to big lawsuits.
Your Employer’s Policy Isn’t Enough
The laboratory you work for likely has professional liability and general liability insurance that is designed to protect the company from malpractice lawsuits, and other perils that present inherent risks of operating a business. As an employee, you are covered by this policy; however, you may not be fully protected. For instance, a patient can sue both the laboratory you work for and you as an individual if they believe you’re personally responsible for a mistake that led to patient harm.
Additionally, the lab’s policy is in place to protect the lab. It may not provide as much coverage as you might need if you are named in a lawsuit alongside others. You would be just one part of the lab’s policy limit. In order to protect yourself and have your own legal representation, it is advised to secure your own professional liability policy, which ensures you have your own policy limits.
Everyone makes mistakes, even medical professionals. Society holds medical professionals in such high esteem that it often thinks they’re incapable of making a mistake when logically, we all know that’s not true. There are so many things that can go wrong in a laboratory. Perhaps you don’t have enough of a sample to test, or the machine’s software gets a bug. Maybe you’re performing a new procedure and you forget a critical step, which leads to a false result.
Even if you take all the precautions possible, you are going to make mistakes in your job as a laboratory technician. It’s inevitable, and of course, you don’t intend for anyone to get hurt. However, when patients are harmed due to medical errors, they deserve compensation, which is what professional liability is for. When you’re fully protected by an individual liability policy, you don’t have to worry about a lawsuit bringing you to financial ruin.
Work Without Fear
As a laboratory technician, you can’t work well under the threat of getting sued. You might even make more mistakes if you’re constantly worried about how one could ruin your career. While liability insurance doesn’t prevent patients from suing you, it does allow you to worry less about what will happen to you if you do get sued. Going through the legal process as a defendant is never pleasant, but when you have insurance, at least it’s less stressful.
Malpractice Lawsuits Are Expensive
The average amount paid out on a medical malpractice claim is $500,000, and that doesn’t even count the fees paid for representation, depositions, loss of productivity, and other expenses not included in a settlement or monetary award. It’s likely that you would not be able to afford your defense on your own without insurance. Even if your employer’s policy pays for some of these expenses, you still might have to pay out-of-pocket for at least some charges.
Most states do not have a cap on how much a patient can sue for on malpractice claims. Therefore, you could find yourself facing a lawsuit that results in an even higher-than-average payout. This is why the minimum limit should be $1 million on your professional liability insurance policy. Consult your insurance provider to learn if you could benefit from higher limits. It’s just not worth the financial risk for you to not be as fully covered as possible.
Being a laboratory technician can be a rewarding career, but only if it doesn’t cause you undue stress because of the lingering risk of getting sued for malpractice.