LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Sebastian Gibson | May 22, 2010

Psychotherapist Malpractice Claims and Litigation Defense in California

It doesn't matter where you live in California, help from a psychotherapist may be needed by all of us if this worldwide economic crisis gets worse again with the collapsing Euro and the problems with the economies in Europe. Mental health professionals can commit malpractice or fail to meet the standard of care in a number of situations. However, they are accused in many more in which there is no malpractice and where they do meet the standard of care. The type of situation in which psychotherapists most clearly commit malpractice is where the mental health professional enters into a sexual relationship with the patient while the patient is still under their care. Unfortunately this claim is made by patients more times than it is true. A psychotherapist owes a patient a duty to use reasonable care in the treatment of that patient. When the psychotherapist breaches that duty and acts negligently or intentionally harms that patient, the psychotherapist is liable for damages, which under California law, can be extensive. A psychotherapist can reduce their chances of being sued for malpractice and reduce the chance of being found liable if they are sued by documenting and exercising good judgment when treating their patients. Another pitfall for the therapist is where therapists enter into business relationships with former or current patients. The theory behind why such relationships should be avoided at all cost is the unequal bargaining power between the patient and the therapist once a therapeutic relationship has been established. Using a technique without proper training is also a ripe area for malpractice. It can also be a problem if the psychotherapist has failed to obtain an adequate history, when the psychotherapist has out of office contact with the patient, and when he or she fails to obtain peer consultation. A malpractice case can be brought against a psychotherapist for violating the standard of care and negligently diagnosing or treating a patient. A psychotherapist must also maintain a boundary with his or her patient. When a psychotherapist breaches that boundary by having a sexual, social, business or personal relationship, hugs a patient for more than a few seconds, or has other physical contact other than a handshake, there can be allegations of malpractice. If you are a psychotherapist and are under investigation by your state board for complaints and accusations or malpractice suits, speak to a mental health malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Patients in psychotherapist malpractice cases who are successful can recover damages for past and future medical treatment, past and future wage loss, and pain and suffering both past and future. It is the future medical care of an abused patient that can run into the many hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars.

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