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When Can You Sue a Psychiatrist for Malpractice?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Psychiatrists, like other health care professionals, can sometimes make mistakes in diagnosis and treatment. In extreme cases, you may find that your trip the psychiatrist caused you more harm than good.

But can psychiatrists be sued like other doctors for medical malpractice? And how do psychiatric malpractice cases differ from other medical malpractice cases?

What's Similar About Psychiatric Malpractice Claims

Like any other medical professional, psychiatrists owe their patients a certain standard of care. They can be at fault for medical malpractice if they fail to meet that standard. Instances that may result in medical malpractice include:

In many ways, a psychiatric malpractice case will look like a standard medical malpractice claim, wherein a client or his or her attorney argues that the therapist 1) owed the patient a duty of care, 2) the therapist breached that duty, 3) the breach caused an injury, and 4) the patient thereby suffered some physical or psychological damages.

What's Different With Psychiatrist Malpractice

Despite the many similarities in psychiatric and other medical malpractice claims, they can also have important distinctions. For instance, proving that a psychiatrist was negligent or acted outside the norm of his or her profession can be difficult.

As the New York Supreme Court held, "When a psychiatrist chooses a course of treatment, within a range of medically accepted choices, for a patient after a proper examination and evaluation, the doctrine of professional medical judgment will insulate such psychiatrist from liability." The court went on to note that "deviation from accepted practice can be difficult to delineate, particularly in cases involving psychiatric treatment."

Not only can it be difficult to prove a psychiatrist's fault, it may also be difficult to ascertain damages, especially if the damage is solely psychological. If you believe that you or a loved one have received sub-standard psychiatric treatment, you should discuss your claim with an experienced injury attorney.

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