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Physician Assistants and Malpractice Lawsuits

Physician AssistantMany people are under the impression that only medical doctors may be sued for malpractice if something goes wrong in their medical care. This is not the case, though the rules for suing others may vary slightly. In California, the next most common class of workers named in malpractice suits after physicians are physician assistants (PAs), but there are misconceptions about how and for what they may be sued.

The Day-to-Day Role of Physician Assistants

PAs and nurse practitioners (NPs) very often perform the initial care on many patients, especially if the patient’s ailment is not very serious. While this can greatly assist an overworked doctor, it also places a great deal of responsibility for the patient’s quality of care onto their shoulders, at least at first. While all of their actions must, in theory, be supervised by a medical doctor under California law, in practice, this essentially receives lip service in many instances. Doctors may say they are simply too busy to check their subordinates’ work. This results in significant autonomy for the PA or NP, but also less accountability for mistakes.

While everyone makes mistakes, it is important for the patient to remember that not every error is necessarily grounds for a malpractice suit. To amount to the standard of medical malpractice, a medical professional’s conduct must fail to meet the general standard of care for a professional of similar age, talent and experience. However, when a PA does not conform to the general standard of care, they can be held just as accountable as medical doctors or other professionals.

Whom To Sue?

It is not uncommon for a patient to be confused about whom to hold liable for the harm they may have suffered in a doctor’s office. While it will obviously depend on the specific facts of the situation, it is eminently possible to sue both a PA and a medical doctor if the conduct requires it. Many PAs carry their own malpractice insurance, but those who do not will still fall under the aegis of the doctor’s insurance carrier. The most common scenario in which both the doctor and the PA could be sued by a patient is if a PA makes a significant error, and then does not ask the doctor for assistance (or the doctor does not volunteer it). Both professionals could be liable for harm, because their conduct may be found to be, collectively, the direct cause of the patient’s damages.

Also, it is common in California for physicians to be employees of particular hospitals. If that is the case for a doctor, it will also likely be the case for their staff - that is, the staff will either be employees of the hospital itself or of the doctor. Either way, in many instances, it is possible to hold the hospital at least partially liable for the conduct of a particular PA, nurse or other medical professional.

Seek Help From An Experienced Attorney

If you have been the victim of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation, regardless of who perpetrated the malpractice. The dedicated San Jose medical malpractice lawyers at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. have years of experience seeking justice and compensation for their clients, and will be happy to do the same for you. Contact us today to discuss your options. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of Alameda, Monterey, Santa Clara, San Benito, and San Mateo.

Client Reviews
My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.