Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Psychologist Malpractice in Chicago, IL
We all know that you can sue doctors for medical malpractice if they act negligently, but can you sue mental health professionals for the same reason? The answer is yes. Mental health professionals include psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and counselors. Some of these professionals can prescribe medications and diagnose mental health conditions. Others can just provide talk therapy and emotional support. Just like an average doctor, a mental health professional has the ability to cause great harm to their patients. They could cause both physical and emotional harm which – depending on the circumstances – can turn into a life-threatening situation. If you have suffered major harm at the hands of 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 us 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 (AKA: counselors). Both types of mental health professionals strive to improve the mental wellbeing of their clients. But the training and schooling that these professionals have to go through is different.
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, coping mechanisms, and general emotional support – but they cannot diagnose mental health disorders or prescribe psychiatric medications. If a therapist believes that their patient has a specific mental health condition, they may refer them to a psychologist or psychiatrist for an official diagnosis. Or if the therapist believes that their patient needs a specific type of medication, they will refer them to a psychiatrist for further analysis.
What is Psychologist Malpractice?
Just like all other medical professionals, mental health professionals have the ability to act negligently. Negligent actions or inactions committed by a medical professional – that result in patient injury, illness, or death – is medical malpractice.
So psychologist malpractice occurs when a mental health professional – whether that be a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a therapist – causes harm to their patient through negligent actions or intentional acts. 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 more than 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. It’s very possible that the real number of mental health malpractice incidents is much higher.
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 are listed below:
- Diagnostic errors.
- Errors in prescribing medication (wrong medication, wrong dose, etc.)
- Failure to properly document medication history.
- Failure to gain informed consent from the patient.
- Revealing the patient’s confidential information to family/friends/other doctors (unless the psychologist did so to prevent 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.
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 correct dosage of a medication.
- Direct Cause: The mental health professional’s breached duty of care causes direct harm to the patient.
- Damages: The patient suffered a wide variety of damages for which they deserve financial compensation.
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 to the sexual contact, because this is an abuse of power).
- Abandonment and/or neglect of patients.
- Emotional abuse.
- Verbal abuse.
- Physical abuse.
- Threats of physical harm.
- Psychological manipulation.
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED).
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 civil personal injury lawsuit to recover damages.
Consequences of Psychiatric Malpractice
Psychiatric malpractice can be incredibly dangerous and life-threatening. Patients may experience:
- Incredible emotional pain such as PTSD, depression, hopelessness, panic disorders, shame, confusion, etc.
- Self-harm and/or suicide.
- Major physical side effects and complications due to psychiatric medications.
- Addiction and substance abuse.
- Difficulty eating and/or sleeping.
- Sexual dysfunction.
- Withdrawal from family and friends.
- Difficulty functioning and completing daily tasks.
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 errors, then loved ones can file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf.
The legal team 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.)
- Lost wages
- 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 mental health malpractice causes significant strain in your marriage
- Funeral and burial expenses if the mental health malpractice results in wrongful death