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Psychiatrists can be liable for malpractice, too

When Louisiana residents hear the phrase “medical malpractice,” they likely think of a surgical error, or perhaps a doctor prescribing the wrong medicine. In most cases, they would be right. These are some of the most common forms of medical malpractice. But non-traditional doctors can also be held liable for their patients’ health.

A psychiatrist is a doctor who specializes in mental and emotional health. Besides providing therapy, psychiatrists can also prescribe medicine for different mental disorders or imbalances. Because they have a medical degree, these doctors can be sued for medical malpractice for many of the same reasons traditional physicians can, just tweaked to their specific field.

Psychiatrists can be held liable for misdiagnosis or erroneous treatment of a mental illness. They can also be held responsible if a patient poses a threat and they do not report it. Like traditional physicians, four requirements must be met. The patient must be under the psychiatrist’s duty of care, the doctor must have neglected that duty, doing so caused injury, and the patient therefore suffered mental or physical damage.

More often than not, the damages will be psychological. As such, it can be very difficult to prove in court. Likewise, because different psychiatrists have unique ways of treating patients, it may be difficult to prove they acted outside the norm. If fault is proven, it may also be difficult to put a number on damages, since there was likely no physical injury. Because of these challenges, it may be beneficial to discuss your situation with a medical malpractice attorney to explore your legal options.  

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