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Mental Health Malpractice Lawyers

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Can I Sue for Mental Health Malpractice?

Although more complicated than the injuries associated with medical malpractice, mental health malpractice is a quickly growing field of malpractice law. The majority of mental malpractice cases do not stem from unforeseeable problems, but rather from situations that could have been avoided if only they were recognized and treated properly by a mental health provider.

What Is Usually Claimed in Mental Health Malpractice Cases?

The following are the most commonly associated claims in successful mental health malpractice cases:

  • Sexual impropriety
  • Incorrect treatment
  • Breach of confidentiality or privacy
  • Fee collection
  • Improper diagnosis of mental health problem
  • Defamation or slander
  • Suicide of patient
  • Improper administration of prescription drugs

Are There Any Defenses to Mental Health Malpractice?

The same defenses for a medical malpractice case often work for mental health malpractice as well. The most common defenses are:

  • Statute of LimitationsStatute of limitations still apply in mental health cases. The time limit to file a malpractice case is typically 1-7 years, but they differ between states. There is some discussion about raising the statute of limitations in cases involving children, but nothing concrete has come from it.
  • No Duty – This typically means that the doctor is not liable because the person claiming malpractice was not the doctor’s patient. Although the doctor typically does not have duty to people who are not patients, the exception is if the patient is dangerous a specific person or persons.
  • No Injury – In order for a plaintiff to sue in court, the plaintiff must have suffered a wrong at the hands of the defendant. If the patient is no worse off than when he or she walked into the doctor’s office, the patient cannot bring a claim.
  • Patient Negligence – Used if the patient failed to disclose all of their medical history or failed to follow on the doctor’s advice. The doctor cannot be liable because it was the patient who caused his or her own injuries.

The Duty to Warn about Dangerous Patients

In some cases, the patient is dangerous to others. Mental health providers may feel they are in a difficult position because the provider has a duty to keep the patient’s information confidential.

However, most states place a duty to warn victims on mental health providers. The duty to warn is the provider’s duty to warn the victim that the patient may seek to harm the victim. If a patient harms or kills a victim, the provider will be liable. The doctor-patient privilege would not be a defense if the mental health provider had a duty to warn or protect the victim.

Most states have a duty to warn. However, the following states do NOT place a duty to warn on mental health providers:

  • Main
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota

Should I Contact a Personal Injury Attorney?

If you have suffered from injuries as a result of mental health visits, or have been accused of mental health malpractice, the advice and counsel of a personal injury attorney can be extremely helpful. In order to determine the strength of the claim, and the proper legal recourse, the right personal injury attorney can make this process a successful one.

Photo of page author Jason Cheung

, LegalMatch Legal Columnist

Last Modified: 03-29-2017 03:39 AM PDT

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