NJ Physician Assistant Malpractice Lawyer
It is not uncommon to see a physician assistant (PA) instead of your doctor, especially if you are coming in for a routine procedure, a mild infection, or the usual seasonal illnesses like the flu. But if your infection or another condition turns debilitating, even life-threatening, you may wonder if the physician assistant misdiagnosed your illness or administered the wrong treatment. You are not alone. Physician assistants make serious medical errors as do other doctors, hospitals, and healthcare providers. If you have been injured as a result of negligence by a physician assistant in New Jersey, you may be wondering if you can sue a physician assistant for malpractice and what the doctor’s responsibility is when their assistant misdiagnoses or improperly treats a patient’s illness. Seeking legal counsel from an experienced New Jersey medical malpractice lawyer is vital to ensure that you understand all of your options and can pursue compensation within the statute of limitations.
At Fronzuto Law Group, our team of attorneys represents victims of physician assistant malpractice, as well as patients who suffer harm at the hands of negligent doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other healthcare providers in New Jersey. Led by NJ Supreme Court Certified Civil Trial Attorney Ernest Fronzuto, our firm has the unique qualifications that you want when seeking the best lawyers to handle your medical malpractice case. With a focus on this highly complex area of the law, our approach is highly attuned to the individual needs of the client and the constantly evolving body of case law that influences potential outcomes in each case. To receive a free consultation and thorough review of your physician assistant negligence case by our legal team, contact us today at (973)-435-4551. Our lawyers are here to provide the help and answers you need.
What is a Physician Assistant?
Physician Assistants, or PA’s, are licensed healthcare practitioners that help physicians deliver medical care. PA’s are not doctors but work under a doctor’s orders, in person or by electronic means. To become a PA, one must be licensed by the National Commission of Certification of Physician Assistants and a graduate of an accredited physician assistant program. Although a PA can do many of the same things that a physician can, the PA is by law always supervised by a physician.
Patients seeing a PA must be advised of the physician assistant’s title by the supervising physician and the PA’s name tag. In addition, all records prepared by the PA must reveal their status by the initials PA or PA-C. A physician assistant must not overstep their boundaries by performing services beyond the scope of their education, experience and legal limitations. The overseeing physician defines the PA’s role by delegation agreements, circumscribing the scope of performance, and observance of the law. Like other healthcare professionals, PA’s must complete continuing education requirements to remain updated in their field.
What can a Physician Assistant Do?
Physician assistants are increasingly found at healthcare facilities in New Jersey and around the nation. In fact, there were 3,040 certified physician assistants in New Jersey in 2018, which amounts to 34.1 PA’s per 100,000 people. Among certified PA’s, the top practice areas are surgery, emergency medicine, internal medicine, and family medicine. The majority of physician assistants are practicing in New Jersey hospitals, with office-based private practice serving as a close second. Within their practices, physician assistants must operate in accordance with the law, solely providing permissible services and conducting related activities. According to the New Jersey Physician Assistant Licensing Act, PA’s are allowed to do all of the following:
- Document patient history
- Perform physical examinations
- Conduct routine in-office and hospital procedures, such as intubation, catheterization, and minor surgeries
- Apply surgical devices
- Order lab tests
- Give medication
- Stitch wounds
- Perform diagnostic or therapeutic procedures
- Prescribe medications under the direction of the supervising physician, especially if prescribing controlled dangerous substances;
- Conduct patient rounds; and
- Assist with emergency procedures, operations, and births
PA’s may perform additional services working alongside a physician or by agreement and in consultation with the overseeing physician. Some tasks, however, are beyond the PA’s scope, such as electromyography or some ophthalmology tests.
Medical Malpractice by a Physician Assistant
Similar to a physician, nurse or other healthcare provider, a physician assistant can commit malpractice when the care they provide falls below the standard of care expected of a PA in the same context, with similar education and experience. Further, the person to whom the PA owes a duty of care, the patient, must be directly injured by the PA’s negligent actions or failure to act. New Jersey law does not specifically address physician assistant malpractice, but like other healthcare workers, the PA’s negligence is measured against the standard of care required of similarly-situated physician assistants. When a PA is accused of malpractice, a qualified medical expert may provide the mandatory affidavit of merit attesting to a defendant PA’s negligence, which is required under New Jersey’s malpractice statutes.
Physicians supervising a PA may be liable for their PA’s negligence or practice outside the legally allowed services, except in the case of rendered medical emergency services. However, gross negligence or wrongful conduct is not exempt under the emergency medical services immunity, nor is ordinary negligence if the PA is regularly employed as an emergency medical services provider, for example, at an emergency room. Because they are no immune to potential lawsuits, physician assistants must carry malpractice insurance or a letter of credit with the minimum amount required by licensing regulations, whether independently or through their employer.
Common Physician Assistant Errors
Although patients sue physician assistants far less frequently than doctors, they sue PAs on similar grounds as doctors: diagnostic, treatment, surgical and medication errors. In some cases, both the physician assistant and the doctor may be liable for damages in a malpractice lawsuit. Poor communication, hesitance to bother the doctor, and lack of protocol are just some of the reasons for inadequate consultation between PA and physician on a patient’s case. Some of the most common errors that may constitute negligence by a physician assistant include:
- Delayed diagnosis of a medical condition
- Misdiagnosis of a patient’s condition
- Failure to treat an illness or condition
- Conducting an inadequate physical exam or patient history
- Surgery malpractice
- Drug prescribing or administration errors
- Providing services outside of those allowed by law
- Errors during labor and delivery
Speak with a Physician Assistant Negligence Attorney in New Jersey
If you or a loved one was injured due to mistakes by a physician assistant or doctor in New Jersey, you may have grounds for a claim. It is vital to find out if you can recover compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost income, which may be obtained through a successful medical malpractice lawsuit. With the complexity of this area of law, you should consult with an experienced NJ physician assistant malpractice attorney who can analyze your situation, evaluate your case, and advise you about your options. Contact Fronzuto Law Group now at (973)-435-4551 to speak with a lawyer who can help.