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When can you sue a mental health professional for malpractice?

The very nature of psychiatric treatment can make it difficult to determine — let alone prove — that a doctor is guilty of malpractice. Not all patients have positive outcomes from therapy, for a multitude of reasons. Some therapists just aren't very good. It's important to differentiate between malpractice and poor or inadequate treatment.

There are a number of things that can qualify as malpractice by a psychiatrist or psychologist. These include:

  • Failure to do a proper risk assessment for suicide or to prevent it
  • Prescribing improper medications or not allowing a patient to have informed consent about drugs
  • Having sex with a patient
  • Creating false memories
  • Failing to warn others of potential danger posed by a patient
  • Disclosing confidential information about a patient to others

This isn't a complete list, and there are circumstances in which some of these things may not be grounds for malpractice. Therapists can't always predict that a patient will commit suicide, for example.

Any medical malpractice suit requires four elements:

  1. A doctor-patient relationship
  2. A breach of duty to provide reasonable care (known as negligence)
  3. Physical and/or mental injury
  4. A link between the doctor's negligence and the injury suffered

Too often, victims of medical malpractice by a therapist don't report it or even realize that their doctor was negligent or behaved inappropriately. Their state of mind may be so fragile that they blame themselves or simply don't have the emotional strength to pursue a legal claim.

However, if you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of malpractice by a mental health professional, you can seek legal guidance. An experienced Biloxi malpractice attorney can help determine whether you have grounds for a case and assess your chances for success. Besides seeking the compensation you need and deserve, you may be saving current and future patients from harm.

Source: Psychology Today, "When to Sue Your Psychiatrist for Malpractice," Ruth Lee Johnson, J.D., accessed June 07, 2018

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