Florida Psychiatric Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who neglect their patients’ safety, care, and well-being have committed mental health malpractice. Patients who experience abuse, false imprisonment, misdiagnosis, and improper treatment while under their psychiatrists’  care can seek damages for their suffering. If you or someone you know is a victim of malpractice, a Florida psychiatric malpractice lawyer at Freedland Harwin Valori Gander can help you seek justice.

Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by Daniel Harwin

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People undergoing mental health care should trust their psychiatrists to protect their safety and privacy.  When doctors fail to do so, it can cause lasting psychological damage. These cases constitute psychiatric malpractice, and they’re a growing concern in the mental health community. If you’re a patient who was abused or neglected by health care professionals, it is time to find a psychiatric malpractice lawyer and file a claim. 

To qualify for damages for mental health malpractice, you’ll need to show that you suffered harm from a care provider’s treatment.  In addition, you’ll have to prove that their actions or negligence directly caused your suffering. The attorneys at Freedland Harwin Valori Gander understand the intricacies of psychiatric malpractice cases and will navigate the legal system as you seek compensation. 

Remember that the content of this article is not intended as medical advice but rather as legal information. The subjects discussed are highly sensitive and include references to self-harm and suicide. This may be upsetting to readers with similar experiences.

Examples of Psychiatric Malpractice

Psychiatric malpractice can take many different forms, some more obvious than others. Understanding each malpractice type will help determine whether you have a potential claim. 

Freedland Harwin Valori Gander has handled these types of cases, including a case where a patient was at a high risk of suicide and the hospital negligently left access to dangerous materials that he later used to take his own life.  In those types of situations, hospitals and facilities have a duty to be sure that patients don’t have access to dangerous materials that they could use to harm themselves.   

Improper Treatment

Improper treatment is a broad category that includes the following scenarios: 

These actions would qualify as medical malpractice if they harm a patient. For example, a doctor provides improper treatment when a misdiagnosis causes a patient’s condition to worsen. 

Negligence

Inaction can be equally as harmful as acting inappropriately. Negligence in psychiatric malpractice refers to a situation in which a health care professional abandons or fails to protect a patient. 

Doctors and nurses also must provide a safe space within a psychiatric hospital or health care facility. This duty may include supervising patients with histories of self-harm or guarding vulnerable patients from other residents.

Abuse and False Imprisonment

Psychiatrists who abuse their power over patients violate their ethical, moral, and legal obligations. Cases of abuse might include: 

  • Physical harm
  • Verbal harassment
  • Sexual assault 
  • False imprisonment or use of restraints 

While they may seem unlikely, these severe violations occur in health care facilities nationwide. For example, Arkansas psychiatrist Dr. Brian Hyatt is facing three civil lawsuits from former patients. One suit seeks damages based on the doctor’s alleged refusal to release a patient from a facility’s behavioral unit where he served as medical director. 

Improper Record Keeping and Third-Party Engagement

Patient records are vital to providing effective mental health treatment. Failing to obtain or document a patient’s existing health conditions and other information often constitutes malpractice. Psychiatrists also are prohibited from sharing protected information with outside parties, including friends and family members, without the patient’s permission. 

Can You Sue a Doctor for Failure to Diagnose a Mental Health Condition in Florida?

Yes, you can sue a doctor for mental health malpractice, if they failed to provide a diagnosis or misdiagnosed your condition. You may have the option to sue multiple parties involved, including: 

  • Psychiatrists
  • General care providers
  • Nurses 
  • The entire health care facility 

However, you’ll need to act quickly. The statute of limitations, or time limit, for psychiatric medical malpractice cases in Florida is two years from when the incident occurred. A qualified Florida psychiatric misdiagnosis attorney can ensure you file your claim within the legal time constraints.

Who Is Liable if a Patient Commits Suicide?

If someone you love committed suicide and you believe their mental health provider is to blame, they may be liable for damages. Situations that are considered negligence include: 

  • Forgetting or failing to complete a suicidal risk assessment 
  • Failing to identify signs that a patient plans to harm themself or others 
  • Prematurely discharging a suicidal or unstable patient from a health care facility
  • Failing to supervise a suicidal patient admitted to a psychiatric care facility 

However, a doctor is not always negligent when a patient commits suicide under their care. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, more than 48,000 Americans died by suicide in 2021. Many of those individuals may have been under a psychiatrist’s care, but not all were malpractice victims.

Should You Call a Florida Mental Health Malpractice Lawyer?

Florida law grants you the right to represent yourself, but that can put you at a significant disadvantage. Doctors and health care facilities are usually protected by their insurance companies and represented by attorneys who fight for their interests. 

Even if you have a legitimate claim, a mistake during the legal process can make it more difficult or impossible to collect damages. A knowledgeable psychiatric medical malpractice lawyer will oversee every step of your lawsuit, including: 

  • Interviewing witnesses 
  • Collecting relevant medical records
  • Gathering evidence, such as police reports
  • Completing and filing legal paperwork 
  • Negotiating a settlement 
  • Litigating the case in court

Having the support of an experienced attorney is especially important when litigating complex mental health malpractice cases. As Chapter 766 of the Florida statutes explains, you must prove that your health care provider’s actions breached “the professional standard of care.” In other words, you must show that your provider’s negligence caused harm and that their conduct differed from what a reasonably prudent provider would do under similar circumstances.  

The Florida psychiatric malpractice attorneys at FHVG have a history of successful litigation. We can assure you that we’ll do what’s needed to fight for the justice you deserve.

Steps in Filing a Psychiatric Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Florida

Florida law treats medical malpractice lawsuits differently than other cases. Victims have to meet several pre-suit requirements before filing a claim, including:  

  • Pre-suit investigation: Before you can file a psychiatric malpractice lawsuit, Florida requires you to conduct a pre-suit investigation to prove you’re making a reasonable claim that malpractice caused your injury, illness, or condition. In many cases, obtaining a signed affidavit from your doctor is sufficient evidence for this purpose. 
  • Official notification: You must also notify any potential defendants of your plan to sue. Notification typically includes the pre-suit affidavit. 
  • Defendant response: Once your notification is delivered, the defendants have 90 days to conduct their own investigation and issue a response. You cannot file suit until this waiting period ends. 

When they file their response, the defendants could reject your claim, try to settle, or offer to enter arbitration. If they reject your claim, you can proceed with your lawsuit. A skilled mental health malpractice attorney will guide you through the legal process once you receive the defendants’ response. 

How Common Is Psychiatric Malpractice?

It’s difficult to say how often psychiatric malpractice occurs because many victims are unable or afraid to come forward. According to a World Psychiatry article, around 2.6 percent of psychiatrists face malpractice claims yearly. While that’s a small number, it doesn’t reflect unfiled malpractice allegations. 

Call FHVG for a Free Psychiatric Malpractice Case Evaluation

Since 2001, FHGV has represented victims in personal injury and medical malpractice cases. Our case results, including multimillion-dollar settlements and verdicts, are a testament to our attorneys’ dedication. 

We believe all psychiatric malpractice victims should have access to excellent legal representation. We primarily work on a contingency basis, meaning we don’t collect any payment unless you recover damages through a settlement or verdict. 

If you’re ready to file a mental health practice lawsuit, FHGV wants to support you. As our client testimonials demonstrate, we’ll guide you through every stage of your case. To get started, contact our medical malpractice law firm in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables, Florida by phone or submit a brief consultation request online. Put our 20+ years of experience to work for you. Call for a free consultation anytime, anywhere. 

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