Ebola, particularly the risk to caregivers, is flooding the news. Many nurses are justifiably worried about the insurance considerations, especially with many liability insurers stating to exclude Ebola related injuries. There are two issues at hand – will nurses have malpractice coverage if they are acused of spreading the virus and will there be coverage from their employer if they catch Ebola on the job.
From a malpractice prospective, there would appear to be no issues with liability insurance covering a nurse if they are alleged to have spread the virus. Malpractice policies are written to cover RNs and LPLs for allegations of negligence from providing “professional services”. A nurse caring for an infected patient would be considered a professional service. If the nurse infects a third party who is not a patient at the hospital after caring for an Ebola patient coverage would be questionable, as the nurse would not have been providing professional services to the accuser.
Coverage is clearer if a nurse themselves is infected on the job, although the ability to collect damages will be limited. Workers Compensation laws in place reimburse employees who have been injured on the job, however in most states the amount that can be recouped is extremely limited and subject to special court proceeds. A nursing catching Ebola on the job is not going to find themselves reaping a multi-million dollar payday.
Workers Compensation covers injuries “arising out of and in the course or scope of employment”. Even if the nurse made a mistake and caused their own illness, they would still have standing to file a workers compensation claim. The only issue would be proving that the infection was a direct result of their work, if the disease becomes more commonplace an employer could argue that it cannot be proven it was contracted at work.
If a nurse is a 1099/contracted employee and catches Ebola on the job more compensation could be available, as the limitations of workers compensation awards would not apply. However, a hospital or home healthcare company does not owe the same standard of care to keep contacted workers safe. As an independent contractor any suit against the facility contracted with would have to prove the entities negligence caused the disease. This can be difficult as the facility could argue the nurses breach of protocol was the cause of any viral contamination.
Nurseliability.com provides independent insurance price and term comparison for nursing malpractice insurance.