How to Sue a Mental Health Care Provider

By Terri Romaker

Mental health care providers can be sued for emotional and physical injuries they inflict on a client. This action is called a civil suit. In a civil suit, the plaintiff (the individual filing) seeks relief through the courts, for injuries he has sustained from the defendant (the individual being sued). Relief is generally a monetary award. Filing a civil suit against a mental health care provider is easier than winning one. To win, you must be able to prove to the court through preponderance of evidence that the injuries have occurred. The individual filing a civil suit is liable for the cost.

The phrase "physical injury" generates images of bruises, broken bones and open flesh wounds. However, the gravest physical injuries a mental health care provider can inflict on a client are acts that are sexual. Injuries arising from sexual acts are both physical and emotional for the client.

The phrase "emotional injury" generates images of a person who is tearful or sad. Emotional injuries inflicted on a client can also defame their character. Defaming a person's character occurs when a mental health care provider provides privileged information about his client to others or discusses it with them.

According to medicalmalpractice.com, "Psychiatric malpractice is defined as the psychiatrist's misconduct or failure to provide a professional level of skill in the care and treatment of their patients."

The American Psychological Association book "Principles of Medical Ethics With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry" identifies the rules that mental health care providers must follow to keep from harming their clients.

If you believe that your mental health care provider has caused you harm, you should make specific notes about the incident. Inform your provider of your concerns before retaining an attorney.

You will need to hire an attorney who specializes in civil injury suits. Ask your friends for referrals. If this is unsuccessful, research the attorneys you will consider before hiring them.

The fees many attorneys charge appear to be high. But the attorneys should be considered an invaluable resource for the consumer. Attorneys are aware of the documentation that must be filed in injury suits. They know what to research. They also know what you will need to prove your case.

Follow the advice your attorney gives you without fail. Keep her informed of events that could affect your case. Arrive at your hearing early.

About the Author

Based in Missouri, Terri Romaker has been writing mental health articles for 13 years. A program she wrote in 2000, on long-term residential care for dually diagnosed adolescents served as a pilot to reformed federal law. She holds a Master of Arts in clinical psychology from Webster University.

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