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8/15/2000

Consider Liability Insurance While Still in School

Cheryl A. Thompson

Even though pharmacy students’ activities in pharmacies occur under a licensed supervisor’s watchful eyes, interns and externs should consider obtaining professional liability insurance.

In the event that something goes seriously wrong in the care of a patient and a lawsuit ensues, anyone involved in the patient’s care could be named as a defendant, as a Louisiana pharmacy intern learned firsthand.

According to a review of the case in the Jan. 1 issue of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, the intern had compounded a topical irrigation solution with a final acetic acid concentration of 47 percent rather than the 0.49 percent that would have resulted from following the pharmacy’s procedures. She ended up in a lawsuit filed by the patient who suffered extensive chemical burns to his hand, wrist, and forearm and lost a finger to amputation.

Fortunately for the intern, the court did not consider her legally liable for the patient’s injury and she had an insurance policy that covered her legal expenses.

In shopping for professional liability insurance, commonly called malpractice insurance, pharmacy students should ask several questions:

  • Does the policy cover activities during academic rotations? During after-school jobs? 
  • When the policy is no longer in force because the policyholder has graduated from school, will the insurance company continue to cover events that occurred when the policy was in force? 
  • Does the policy cover errors, omissions, and professional incidents? 
  • Does the policy define "incident"? 
  • Does the policy cover defense costs, such as fees and expenses for attorneys and expert witnesses? Does this coverage extend to disciplinary proceedings conducted by a state board of pharmacy? 
  • Does the policy reimburse for time and expenses associated with required attendance at a trial? 
  • Does the policy reimburse for legal fees and expenses associated with preparing deposition testimony for a proceeding in which the policyholder is a witness, not a defendant? 
  • What is the maximum amount the policy will pay for an incident? 
  • Will the policy pay for more than one incident? 
  • How easy is it to convert from a student policy to a pharmacist policy? 
  • Must the insurance company obtain your consent before settling a claim brought against you?

The above set of questions should not be interpreted as a list of requirements. As with any type of insurance, students should shop around for the policy that best meets their needs.

ASHP offers professional liability insurance through a program administered by Chicago-based Maginnis & Associates.