Can Physician Assistants Be Held Liable for Medical Malpractice?

A physician assistant (PA) works closely with physicians to provide individual patient care. If your physician assistant behaved negligently, you might be wondering whether you can hold them responsible for injuries that you suffered.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Before we delve into whether you can hold a physician assistant liable for your injuries, it’s important to understand exactly what medical malpractice is and the types of behavior that constitute medical malpractice.

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional, such as a physician assistant, causes injury to a patient through negligence or omission. The negligence could be the result of mistakes made during diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or during the health management of the patient. It could also occur if a medical professional treated a patient without proper permission.

Many people are often surprised by how common mistakes are in the medical industry. During a study conducted by Johns Hopkins safety experts, the team discovered that over 250,000 deaths each year are the result of medical errors. That places medical mistakes as the third-leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer.

Can Physician Assistants Be Held Liable for Medical Malpractice?

Yes, a physician assistant can be held liable for medical malpractice if they behaved negligently, or in a manner that a reasonable PA would not have, and that behavior caused the patient to suffer an injury.

However, the physician assistant isn’t the only person who may be liable for the patient’s injuries. If the supervising doctor approves the PA’s conduct, and the PA breaches the duty of care they owe the patient, then the physician may be held directly liable for the negligent actions. Likewise, the supervising physician can be held responsible for medical malpractice if they were negligent in the selection and supervision of the PA.

Types of Medical Malpractice

While there are a variety of circumstances that can lead to a valid claim for medical malpractice, most claims fall into one of three broad categories:

  • Improper diagnosis: Sometimes, healthcare providers improperly diagnose patients, leading to an unfavorable outcome, such as the condition worsening or the symptoms continuing. If it’s determined that a competent treater would have made an accurate or a different diagnosis that would have led to a more favorable outcome for you, then you may have a valid claim for medical malpractice.
  • Improper treatment: Oftentimes, this category involves healthcare providers who delay treatment and fail to deal with underlying conditions until it is too late. Other times, healthcare providers may select an inappropriate treatment for a patient’s condition that ends up making things worse. If a competent treater would have employed a different treatment that would have led to a better outcome for you, then you may have a valid medical malpractice claim. Likewise, if the healthcare provider selected the correct treatment but administered it incompetently, then you may have a valid claim in this situation as well.
  • Notification of risks: Medical professionals like physician assistants are required to communicate with patients about any known risks for a course of treatment or procedure. This process of notification is known as the duty of informed consent. For example, if a physician assistant failed to notify you about risks, and you would have chosen not to have the procedure if you had known, the physician assistant could be liable for medical malpractice if you suffered an injury as a result of that treatment.

Requirements for a Valid Medical Malpractice Claim

In order to make a claim that a physician assistant behaved negligently, there are a few things that must exist in the case:


Despite a healthcare provider’s best efforts, sometimes the outcome of a procedure or treatment isn’t favorable. However, an unfavorable outcome doesn’t automatically imply negligence on the PA’s behalf. The question of whether the PA behaved negligently often hinges on whether the PA was reasonably skillful and careful. While they are not required to be the best at their job, they are required to provide a reasonable standard of care. To have a valid claim, patients must prove that their physician assistant deviated from that standard.


In order to have a medical malpractice claim, the negligence must have been a cause of some kind of injury suffered by the patient. If negligence caused an injury, the patient will have to prove the significance of the harms and losses. Some types of harm and damages that you can hold a physician responsible for include:

  • Medical bills
  • Past wages
  • Loss of earning potential
  • Pain and suffering

If you or a loved one is suffering because of the negligence of a physician assistant and possibly their supervising physician, then you may have a valid medical malpractice claim. Our physician assistant medical malpractice lawyers can examine the details of your case and help you understand what options you have for recovering damages. For a free evaluation of your case, contact Janet, Janet & Suggs today.


Reviewed by:
Trish Fletcher, MS, BSN, CRNP, NNP-BC, ALNC
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner | Birth Injury Legal Nurse Consultant

Tricia is a dedicated, focused, Birth Injury Legal Nurse Consultant and Neonatal Nurse Practitioner with more than 25 years of experience. Her strong clinical and critical thinking skills, paired with expertise caring for neonates in a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), ensures meticulous medical records review. READ FULL BIO

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