Many people assume that only physicians and other medical professionals who treat physical ailments and injuries can be guilty of medical malpractice. However, there are some cases in which a mental health professional can also be held liable for causing harm or death.
To file a lawsuit for medical malpractice, you need to prove that the provider owed a duty of care, that the duty was breached and that the breach caused harm. Psychiatrists, who are medical doctors, most commonly face medical malpractice suits for the following:
- Not assessing a person’s risk for suicide or failing to prevent suicide
- Having a sexual relationship with a patient
- Creating false memories
- Prescribing drugs or other treatments that caused harm
- Making an incorrect diagnosis
- Falsifying records
- Sharing confidential patient information without their consent (Note that failing to warn someone if a patient threatens to harm them can also land a psychiatrist in legal trouble. )
Many psychiatric malpractice cases involve a patient who harmed themselves or took their own lives. While loved ones often blame the victim’s therapist, showing that their lack of reasonable care caused their patient to take the action they did can be tricky.
Psychiatrists aren’t the only mental health care providers who can face malpractice suits
Often, people are treated by other types of licensed mental health professionals who don’t have the medical training that psychiatrists have. These professionals nonetheless have a duty of care to those they treat. These include psychologists, licensed marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers or others with specific training and licensing. They can also be held liable for actions or negligence that caused harm to someone they were treating.
If you believe that a psychiatrist or other mental health professional caused harm to you or a loved one, it’s important to seek experienced legal guidance. This can help you determine whether you have a case.