CHICAGO PSYCHOLOGIST MALPRACTICE LAWYER
Mental Health Professional Malpractice in Chicago, IL
We all know that you can sue doctors for medical malpractice if they act negligently, but you sue mental health professionals for the same reason. Mental health professionals include psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and counselors. Just like an average doctor, they could cause both physical and emotional harm to their patients, which – depending on the circumstances – can turn into a life-threatening situation. If you have suffered major harm caused by your mental health professional, you need legal support from a Chicago psychologist malpractice lawyer at Curcio Law Offices.
Curcio Law Offices is the top personal injury law firm in Chicago, Illinois. We are passionate about helping our clients obtain justice and financial compensation when they directly suffer from other people’s negligence or abuse. Call our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers today at 312-321-1111 to schedule a free case evaluation.
What is a Psychologist?
A psychologist is one type of mental health professional who psychologically evaluates patients, diagnoses mental health conditions, and helps patients cope better with their emotions through talk therapy (psychotherapy). All psychologists must have either a PhD in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (PysD) degree.
Psychologists vs. Psychiatrists
The main difference between psychologists and psychiatrists is that psychiatrists are medical doctors, and psychologists are not. So psychiatrists go to medical school, and psychologists do not. In most states, only psychiatrists can prescribe psychiatric medications. However, there are 5 states that allow psychologists to prescribe psychiatric medications, and they are Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, and New Mexico.
Psychologists vs. Therapists
There are also differences between psychologists and therapists. Both types of mental health professionals strive to improve the mental well-being of their current patient.
Therapists or counselors generally have a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or social work. They are still qualified to provide psychological treatment – such as talk therapy and coping mechanisms – but they cannot diagnose mental health disorders or prescribe medications for treatment.
If a therapist believes that their patient has a specific mental health condition, they may refer them to a psychologist or psychiatrist for treatment. Or if the therapist believes that their patient needs a specific type of medical treatment, they will refer them to a psychiatrist or doctor for further analysis.
What is Psychologist Malpractice?
Just like all other medical professionals, mental health professionals have the ability to act negligently. Professional negligence committed by a medical professional – that results in patient injury, suffering illness, or death – is medical malpractice.
This occurs when a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a therapist – causes harm to their patient through negligent actions, intentional acts, or failure to act. Just like medical doctors, mental health professionals can face medical malpractice lawsuits.
How Common is Psychiatric Medical Malpractice?
Similarly to regular medical malpractice cases, there’s truly no way to know how often mental health malpractice happens. Many patients may feel so bound by shame, fear, and confusion that they may never come forward about the harm they have suffered at the hands of their psychologist.
According to medical malpractice payment statistics from the National Practitioner Board (NPDB), there have been over 1,500,000 adverse action reports and medical malpractice payment reports from 1990 to 2022. Psychologists, social workers, therapists, and counselors make up more than 83,000 of these adverse action reports and medical malpractice payment reports in that 32 year time frame.
Psychologist Negligence vs. Intentional Acts
Malpractice can fall into two main categories: negligence and intentional acts.
Examples of Psychologist Negligence
Negligence, in legal terms, is when a medical professional fails to take reasonable care in treating their patients. As a result, the patient could suffer major injury, illness, or death.
Examples of psychiatric malpractice include:
Errors in prescribing medication (wrong medication, wrong dose, etc.)
Failure to properly document medication history.
Failure to gain informed consent from the patient.
Breach of confidentiality (unless the psychologist did so to prevent patients’ suicide, homicide, and/or self-harm).
Involuntarily hospitalizing a patient in a psychiatric ward when there was no evidence of suicidal/homicidal thoughts and desires.
Unnecessarily restraining a patient in a psychiatric ward (false imprisonment).
If you have suffered any of the aforementioned negligent acts, you may have grounds to contact an attorney and file a psychiatric malpractice claim.
Can you sue a doctor for prescribing the wrong medication? In Illinois, yes. This falls under professional negligence.
How to Prove Negligence in a Medical Malpractice Case
Just like in regular medical malpractice claims, you must prove that negligence occurred in psychiatric malpractice claims. The first step in doing this is proving that a doctor patient relationship existed. This is easy to prove through medical records. Next, you need to prove the 4 D’s of negligence:
Duty of Care is the reasonable standard of care that all medical professionals owe to their patients.
Duty Dereliction means that there was a breach in this duty of care. For example, maybe the psychiatrist fails to prescribe the correct medication or prescribes the wrong medication.
Direct Cause: The mental health professional’s breach of duty causes direct harm to the patient.
Damages: The patient suffered a wide variety of damages.
A Chicago psychiatric malpractice lawyer at Curcio Law Offices can help you gather sufficient evidence to prove these elements of negligence.
Examples of Psychologist Intentional Acts
Intentional acts refer to the abuse or neglect of patients. Examples include:
Engaging in a sexual relationship with the patient (this is always considered sexual abuse, even if the patient consented, because this is an abuse of power).
Abandonment and/or neglect of patients.
Emotional or verbal abuse.
Threats of physical harm.
Victims of psychologist abuse may be able to file both criminal and civil lawsuits in order to obtain justice and compensation. For example, a victim of physical and sexual abuse could report their therapist to the local police and/or licensing board. As a result, the therapist could face criminal charges. The victim could also file a Chicago personal injury lawsuit to recover damages.
Can You Sue for Psychologist Malpractice?
Yes, you can definitely sue for mental health malpractice especially if you suffered major physical injury and mental distress. If the psychiatric malpractice resulted in the patient’s death via suicide or medication error, then loved ones can file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf.
The Chicago wrongful death lawyers at Curcio Law Offices is equipped to handle both medical malpractice cases and wrongful death cases. We can analyze the details of your case, help you determine the best course of action, and help you recover damages.
Damages for Psychologist Malpractice
Our legal team can help you recover financial compensation for the following types of damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit lawsuit:
Past and future medical bills (for psychiatric medications, psych ward hospitalizations, etc.)
Loss of earning capacity if the trauma suffered from mental health malpractice prevents you from completing your normal job duties
Pain and suffering
Mental health counseling expenses
Loss of enjoyment of life
Loss of consortium if the trauma from psychotherapy malpractice causes significant strain in your marriage
Average funeral expenses if the mental health malpractice results in death
Experienced Chicago Psychologist Malpractice Lawyer
If you have suffered physical and emotional trauma due to mental health malpractice, you have grounds to sue and recover financial compensation. Our legal team has decades of combined experience in litigating all sorts of medical malpractice cases, including psychiatric malpractice cases. Mental health professionals deserve to be held responsible for their negligent actions and abuse, just like all other medical professionals. Call our Chicago psychiatric malpractice lawyers at 312-321-1111 to schedule a free consultation today.