As medical malpractice lawyers, we know that a psychiatrist’s relationship with a patient is one of the most personal relationships that healthcare providers have with patients. Psychiatrists may know a patient’s most private thoughts. A psychiatrist’s negligence or abuse can have considerable long term or lasting consequences for a patient.
Psychiatry is the branch of medicine devoted to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. The various mental, emotional, and behavioral illnesses which psychiatrists treat include, for example, personality disorders, eating disorders, sleep disorders, substance abuse problems.
Like other medical professionals, a psychiatrist can be liable for his or her negligence which causes harm to a patient.
WHEN DOES A PSYCHIATRIST COMMIT MEDICAL MALPRACTICE?
What is medical malpractice? Medical professionals maintain high standards, and when the treatment provided to a patient falls below those standards, it may be medical malpractice.
The accepted standard of care in the healthcare industry includes the processes, routines, and procedures accepted throughout the healthcare community. If a psychiatrist harms a patient by failing to provide the proper medical care, that patient has the right to bring legal action.
WHAT TYPES OF SITUATIONS CONSTITUTE MEDICAL MALPRACTICE?
Most instances of medical malpractice by psychiatrists fall into one of three broad categories:
- Exploitation of trust: When a psychiatrist exploits trust and crosses boundaries, for example engaging in a sexual relationship with a patient, constitutes malpractice.
- Improperly prescribed medication: Ordering the wrong drug or the wrong dosage of a drug can be disastrous. Doctors must exercise great care in determining which prescriptions are appropriate, and the failure properly prescribe medication is malpractice.
- Third Party Liability: Failing to warn a third party (or take acceptable alternative steps) when a patient who is dangerous has identified the party as a potential victim, as allowed or required by law
WHAT IS A DOCTOR-PATIENT RELATIONSHIP?
When doctors provide medical treatment or examine patients, they are establishing a doctor-patient relationship. Medical records, bills, and other documents may confirm that relationship.
A psychiatrist may be negligent when he or she has failed to perform as other, reasonably competent psychiatrists would have performed in a similar situation. Negligence is the breach of the generally-accepted standard of care that other, reasonably competent psychiatrists provide.
HOW WILL A TOP-RATED LAWYER HANDLE A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CASE?
In cases of psychiatric malpractice, an expert’s opinion will be required to establish the appropriate standard of care and whether the treatment at issue was below the accepted standard of care. The expert may also testify at trial. An expert witness can explain what the appropriate conduct of a reasonably competent psychiatrist would be under the circumstances.
After the appropriate standard of care has been defined, the plaintiff in a psychiatric malpractice case must prove that the doctor’s treatment was below that acceptable standard of care, and that significant harm resulted from that care and treatment.
For instance, when the acceptable standard of care requires a psychiatrist to diagnose a common psychiatric condition and prescribe particular medication for that condition, the psychiatrist’s failure to properly and timely diagnose the condition and prescribe the appropriate and necessary medications may be actionable medical malpractice if significant harm to the patient results from the below standard of care treatment.
WHAT’S IT TAKE TO PREVAIL WITH A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CLAIM?
To prevail in a medical malpractice claim against a psychiatrist, the patient plaintiff and the patient plaintiff’s attorney must demonstrate that the doctor’s negligence was a direct cause of significant harm to the patient, and that the harm was not a generally accepted risk of treatment. This harm may include:
- personal pain and suffering
- the loss of one’s personal earning capacity
- the loss of one’s ability to enjoy life
HOW CAN PSYCHIATRIC PATIENTS PROTECT THEMSELVES?
No one anticipates being victimized by psychiatric malpractice, but if you are currently seeing a psychiatrist for treatment, protect yourself by taking these measures:
- Maintain a journal with a precise summary of each treatment session.
- Record your prescriptions, dosages, and any changes to your medications.
- Ask why a drug has been prescribed and what its effect is going to be.
WHAT QUESTIONS MUST BE ANSWERED IN A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CASE?
The two central questions in a psychiatric malpractice case are: Was the psychiatrist negligent in treating the patient, and if so, did this negligence actually and directly cause significant harm or injury to the patient?
Psychiatric patients sometimes find that their concerns are shrugged off as paranoia, exaggerations, or even as unwillingness to cooperate with treatment. Where can a victim of psychiatric malpractice turn for help?
If you believe that you are or have been a victim of psychiatric malpractice – or if you’re not sure – discuss your case with an experienced Rochester medical malpractice attorney as quickly as possible. Medical malpractice is unacceptable, but a medical malpractice lawyer can help you get the justice you deserve if you’ve been harmed by negligent medical treatment.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE ATTORNEY?
If you are a victim of psychiatric medical malpractice in this state, it is in your best interest to act at once to avoid the risk of being barred from bringing a medical malpractice action to recover for your damages. The statute of limitations begins when the malpractice occurs – when the psychiatrist acted negligently.
In New York, medical malpractice claims generally must be filed within two-and-a-half years from the date of the psychiatrist’s alleged negligence, however, they may be shorter time periods if, for example, a potential defendant is governmental entity (think county hospital, county nursing home, etc.).
Contact a New York medical malpractice attorney to ensure that your claim is filed properly, on time, and that your rights are fully protected. A good personal injury lawyer can evaluate your case and provide the advice and legal representation that you will need.
Most medical malpractice claims are resolved out-of-court. If your case can be settled, you may pay less in legal fees. If your case goes to trial, an accomplished Rochester medical malpractice attorney will fight aggressively for the monetary recovery – and for the justice – you deserve.
If you have experienced negligence, abuse, or mistreatment by a psychiatrist or by the personnel at a psychiatric hospital or clinic, contact a skilled medical malpractice lawyer immediately to discuss your legal rights and options. A good lawyer’s help is your right.