Have You Been Injured? We're Ready to Fight for You.

Do Nurse Practitioners and Physician’s Assistants Create More Malpractice Claims?

Published on Apr 24, 2013 at 8:00 am in Medical Malpractice.

Many of us are now accustomed to seeing physician’s assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) when we go to see our primary doctors. These so-called “mid-level” professionals rank high on customer satisfaction surveys, in part because they tend to spend more time with patients. They may also actually help reduce the risk for malpractice claims against the doctors they work with.

But there are two common areas of negligence claims against nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants themselves: inadequate supervision and acting beyond the scope of their authority.

The use of mid-level professionals has been growing:

Physician Assistants – The number of physician assistants has more than doubled over the last decade, according to the American Academy of Physician Assistants. As of 2013, there are about 85,000 certified PAs in the U.S. All states have authorized PAs to prescribe medications, but they always must be under a physician’s supervision.

Nurse Practitioners – The number of nurse practitioners has grown from over 110,000 in 2003 to about 155,000 today, according to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Nurse practitioners also work under the supervision of a doctor, and typically work for primary care practices, hospitals and clinics. Nurse practitioners can see patients without direct involvement of a doctor in 18 states and D.C., although in some of those cases they may need a formal collaborative arrangement with a physician.

Types of Claims Against NPs and PAs

Many typical malpractice claims against mid-level professionals occur in cases where a patient was seen multiple times. Over time, the patients either didn’t improve or worsened and yet the doctor was not consulted. In those cases, the NP and the PA can be held liable for acting beyond their scope, and failing to consult their supervising physician. But also, the physicians can be found liable (vicarious liability) for mid-levels’ negligence, even if the doctors never saw the patient.

Questions to be considered in a liability case include:

  • When is it appropriate for the mid-level to consult the doctor?
  • Was the doctor reviewing the mid-level’s notes?
  • Why wasn’t there more communication?

Meet Your Team

Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

Free Case Evaluation

At Thomas Law Offices, our personal injury attorneys recognize that our potential clients are likely going through some of the most difficult times of their lives. We don't want you to have to worry about paying out-of-pocket for legal advice when you're just starting to learn your legal rights and options. That's why we provide free case evaluations. We'll offer our expert advice about your potential case and walk you through how we can help you.

Call us or fill out the form below to tell us about your potential case and a personal injury lawyer will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Legal & Firm News

Federal Judge Rules Wrongful Death Claims Against Monsanto as Time-Barred

As Bayer announces wanting to keep Roundup on the market for the foreseeable future without adding a warning about the potential cancer risk, a judge in Georgia has ruled a wrongful death claim against Monsanto as time-barred. This ruling, along with Monsanto’s settlement, could affect future cases. To understand why, let’s start by taking a […]

Read More

Car Accident Soreness: What to Expect in the Weeks After a Crash

The moments following a car accident are filled with adrenaline, so much so that even if you’re injured, you may not experience pain. But as your body adjusts and your brain’s chemicals return to their normal state, the pain is likely to start. So even if you seek medical attention and have your injuries treated, […]

Read More

Multi-Vehicle Accidents: Who Pays for Chain Reaction Crashes?

You’re driving down the road on your way to work in heavy traffic. Everything seems standard for your morning commute until you’re sideswiped by a passing vehicle and subsequently rear-ended by the car behind you when you brake. Emergency responders arrive at the scene, and you’re treated for your injuries and told to follow up […]

Read More