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5 types of psychiatrist negligence that can lead to a lawsuit

On Behalf of | Jan 28, 2019 | Medical Malpractice

Mental illness is a growing concern in the U.S. Whether you are suffering with depression, anxiety or another affliction, you may seek out the help of a medical health professional to gain some relief.

But what if you come out of treatment feeling the same–or worse–than before? Can you blame your psychiatrist for the inefficacy of your treatment? Do you have legal recourse?

Suing your psychiatrist for malpractice can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. Historically, successful lawsuits have fallen under five main categories:

Improper record keeping

Psychiatrists have a responsibility to thoroughly document information pertaining to a patient’s level of care, medications and dosages–as well as any changes to these. In addition, they are responsible for outlining the rationale for all of these decisions. A psychiatrist could come under legal attack for keeping incomplete patient records, or for falsifying or altering such records.

Improper treatment

You may think that a patient’s course of treatment is at the discretion of the medical professional. However, psychiatrists have an obligation to follow certain procedures associated with patient treatment. For example, they must:

  • Obtain informed consent of the patient or their guardian,
  • Properly test and monitor a patient’s response to medication,
  • Carry out a thorough neurological evaluation of a patient who demonstrates certain symptoms of high concern–such as impaired consciousness or altered mental state,
  • Work collaboratively and communicate regularly with any other medical professional who is treating the patient and
  • Terminate the patient using appropriate procedures.

Improper engagement with third parties

Psychiatrists maintain a certain level of confidentiality with their patients. However, under certain circumstances, they have an obligation to communicate with third parties. Failing to do so can result in a lawsuit. For instance, if a patient is likely to harm others, the psychiatrist must warn relevant parties–even without the patient’s consent. In addition, if a psychiatrist receives a subpoena requesting information from concerned family members of the patient, they may not ignore it.

Negligence with suicidal patients

If a patient commits suicide, the psychiatrist could be held accountable if they failed to:

  • Carry out a suicide risk assessment,
  • Closely and continually observe the patient for suicidal symptoms following the assessment or
  • Conduct a home assessment, ensuring that it is free of objects the patient could use to cause themselves harm.

Unethical conduct

Finally, certain immoral behaviors are always grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit, including:

  • Having a sexual relationship with a patient,
  • Trading medical treatment for other goods or services or
  • Planting false memories in a patient.

A psychiatrist malpractice suit can be complicated to prove. But the right attorney can greatly improve your chances of success.


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