The Nebraska Supreme Court held recently that a written reports from a Physician’s Assistant or P.A. are inadmissible into evidence under the Rule 10 of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act.
The decision resolves what amounted to a “circuit split” among the seven judges of the Nebraka Workers’ Compensation Court as to whether P.A. reports were admissible into evidence.
The decision didn’t come as a shock to me or any of the other lawyers at this firm. The decision shouldn’t impact how we or any other lawyers develop evidence in Nebraska workers’ compensation cases.
But I believe the decision harms workers in rural areas whose only access to medical care is often a P.A. The decision also harms workers without health insurance whose only treatment for a work injury might be treating with a P.A. at an urgent care clinic. If an employer denies compensability, the only medical evidence that employee may have would be a report from a P.A.
Most lawyers “fix” P.A. reports by having the supervising doctor sign the report. I’ve had P.As take offense at that request. I’ve also had defense lawyers attack medical opinions on hearsay grounds by getting a medical doctor to admit that the P.A. is the one with first-hand knowledge about the injured worker.
Lawyers are stuck with two options if a P.A report is the sole source of expert opinion from a treating provider: 1) Call the P.A. live as a witness in the same manner as in a civil trial or 2) retain an examiner.
Neither of those is a great option. The best fix would be for the Legislature or the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court to amend Rule 10 to allow P.A reports into evidence.