Who is Liable for Lab Technician Malpractice in New Jersey?
A medical laboratory technician is a major player in the healthcare system, as they assist doctors in diagnosing and treating illness or disease. They may also help doctors prevent worsening disease while serving as a critical link in the healthcare chain. Lab technicians, though working behind the scenes, are crucial providers to doctors and the entire healthcare system. Doctors diagnose and treat patients based on test results, which require unquestionable accuracy for complete and proper analysis. As such, errors in test results can lead to patient injury or death. In other words, there is no room for error. However, there are legal remedies available for those who suffer harm at the hands of uneducated, insufficiently trained, inattentive, or otherwise substandard lab technicians. Whether their conduct occurs in an isolated incident or is a symptom of an overall propensity toward laxness in performance of their duties, negligent parties and even their employers can be held accountable under New Jersey medical malpractice laws. To that end, a patient injured by lab technician mistakes can be compensated for losses resulting from the technician’s negligent performance of their duties.
What does a Lab Technician do?
Lab technicians perform tests on any samples that physicians, assistants, or lab supervising personnel give them, such as blood, tissue, and urine. They perform chemical analyses of these substances and examine the results under a microscope, preparing the solutions used to conduct the analyses and, less often, taking the patient samples, like drawing blood or explaining to patients how to give a clean urine sample. They are also responsible for keeping their environment sterile, especially the devices and tools they use.
For instance, if a hospital patient needs a blood transfusion, the lab technician may be the one that runs the tests to confirm blood compatibility before the procedures. The technician is also the one who looks for microorganisms in blood or urine or immune system components. Lab techs also check blood for clotting issues or measure drug levels in blood to verify if drug treatments are working.
When it comes to lab technicians, their job is not only conducting tests, however. Once tests are performed, lab techs enter the results into a computer system accessed by other medical professionals, primarily doctors but also nurses and other healthcare providers. Technicians sometimes, though not often, deal with patients too, so they need to be good communicators and understand patient relations. Of course, they must be expert in handling the laboratory equipment and devices used to perform their job.
Where do Lab Technicians Work?
Much of what lab technicians do depends upon where they work, at a hospital, blood bank, or dialysis center, for example. Some technicians specialize in specific areas, such as microbiology, immunology, or clinical chemistry, to name a few. And yet, wherever they work and whatever field they specialize in, lab technicians must be detail oriented and operate with extreme precision. Test results depend on careful attention to measurement and knowledge of chemistry, microbiology, and phlebotomy.
They must also be good researchers and team players, wherever they are found, whether in hospital, commercial, crime or public health laboratories. Pharmaceutical, chemical, and biotechnology companies hire them, and they are also critical to the cosmetic and food industries. Veterinary clinics, blood donor and transplant centers, and research institutes also employ lab techs.
What is Required to Prove a Lab Technician Malpractice Case?
The plaintiff filing a medical malpractice lawsuit based on lab technician negligence must first prove that the tech and lab owed the patient an obligation to perform their duties within the acceptable standards, as set forth by medical associations and governing boards that license lab technicians, or according to other professionals serving in the same capacity with the same training and credentials. Further, they must prove that the lab tech’s performance fell below those standards. Lastly, there must be a direct link between the lab technician’s inadequate care and the resulting harm to the patient. In other words, the lab tech’s conduct was unacceptable by professional standards, they owed the patient a duty of care, and their inadequate performance of their role in accordance with the acceptable standards led to the patient’s injuries and resulting economic and non-economic damages.
Who can be Liable in a Lab Technician Negligence Lawsuit?
In isolated cases, the lab technician themself may be subject to liability for negligence. A laboratory, corporation, or other entity that employs the technician may likewise be responsible for its own negligence in failing to competently oversee the work performed at the lab, failing to run an orderly lab where mistakes are less likely to occur, or failing to protect patients from an employee technician known to perform poorly or make mistakes. Once an employer is on notice that their employee may potentially injure a patient by their inability to competently perform their job, an employer may be vicariously liable under a legal theory of respondeat superior, which means the employer is responsible for their employee’s negligence committed while working for the employer. In this way, employers are often liable for lab technician errors and may owe an injured victim compensation in a malpractice claim.
Liability can be shared among multiple parties in a medical malpractice action, as it is not uncommon to file a lawsuit naming two or three parties when seeking compensation. For instance, a victim of malpractice may sue the treating physician for their injuries, as well as the office or hospital where the doctor works. This may also include the laboratory that conducted tests that were used by the physician in diagnosing and treating the patient.
Since an individual who suffered injury or complications resulting from lab technician errors may not know where the fault lies for their injury, it is important to have a thorough review of the person’s medical records and the circumstances surrounding the case in order to identify when and how negligence occurred. This is a painstaking process best left to a skilled and experienced medical malpractice attorney.
Examples of Lab Technician Errors
Examples of scenarios involving lab technician errors abound. Imagine a new mother learning that her child has a birth defect despite the fact that her genetic test results during pregnancy showed no birth defects. If the flawed test was due to a lab technician’s error, the parents may have grounds for a malpractice action against the lab technician and the lab that employs them. If successful, a jury award may be high, since a wrongful birth action can yield compensation for the entirety of the costs of the baby’s care for the remainder of their life, as well as physical pain, psychological trauma, and other damages thrust upon the parents and the child.
In yet another situation, a patient whose cancer progressed past the point of life-saving intervention may have a malpractice claim against several individuals and entities. They may have a cause of action against the physician who failed to diagnose cancer due to erroneous screening tests, the hospital where the tests were run, the laboratory in the hospital or contracted by the hospital, as well as the individual lab technician that performed, improperly conducted, or otherwise made procedural errors in performance of the tests. The responsible parties may end up being held liable with a successful medical malpractice claim, as participants in the causal chain to the cancer’s progression and the extensive treatment, pain and suffering, and economic losses resulting from the negligent testing.
Connect with NJ Malpractice Attorneys Representing those Injured by Lab Tech Mistakes and Misconduct
If your condition or disease treatment was far more extensive and prolonged due to a delayed diagnosis based on incorrect test results, you may have a malpractice claim. Or perhaps the delayed diagnosis based on lab technician mistakes led to your loved one’s death. You may have a wrongful death claim against the responsible parties. As medical malpractice actions, investigations, and legal procedures are exceedingly complex, entrust your case in the highly capable hands of our New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Fronzuto Law Group. Connect with us at 973-435-4551 for a free consultation 24/7 if you or your loved one has been injured due to inaccurate laboratory tests and technician testing procedures in New Jersey.