Can a Mental Health Diagnosis Be Considered Medical Malpractice?

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Caring for a patient’s mental health is just as important as caring for their physical needs. As such, mental health care providers must treat their patients with the same high degree of care that physicians and other healthcare providers exercise with regard to other illnesses. Failure to do so can lead to serious liability for a patient’s losses. 

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is more than a mistake; it occurs when a healthcare provider fails to perform in accordance with the applicable “standard of care” when treating a patient. It can occur in different contexts and can be committed by various healthcare professionals who treat patients under their care. Some of the more common forms of malpractice that you may be familiar with include:

  • Surgical errors
  • Failure to treat
  • Childbirth injuries
  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
  • Prescription drug errors

Perhaps one of the most common forms of medical malpractice is misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a particular illness. 


Misdiagnosis malpractice can occur in many ways. A doctor might erroneously identify a disease or diagnose a condition far later than they should have. They might also miss a medical condition altogether. Whichever form of misdiagnosis occurs, the result can be a serious injury due to inappropriate treatment plans. 

The question is: Can a mental health misdiagnosis be a proper basis for a claim of medical malpractice? The answer is yes.

Mental Health Diagnoses and Medical Malpractice

Mental health care providers are under the same duty of care as doctors and other healthcare workers. Hence, they may be held liable for injuries caused by their negligent diagnosis. 

In the mental health realm, malpractice relating to a mental health misdiagnosis will typically require a plaintiff to prove the same conditions or elements of a general misdiagnosis malpractice claim that involves other areas of the body.  A mental health misdiagnosis can exist for each of the following acts or omissions:

  • Failure to diagnose a mental health condition
  • Failure to diagnose a delay within a reasonable time
  • Failure to diagnose the correct condition and instead diagnosing an erroneous one

Each of these types of misdiagnoses can lead to devastating consequences for a mental health patient.  The patient victim might be given an inappropriate medicine or might have essential medicine withheld as a result of an erroneous mental health diagnosis. A victim of a misdiagnosis might also develop other conditions as their misdiagnosed condition worsens. 

Regardless of the specifics, if you have experienced an injury due to an incorrect mental health diagnosis, you may have the right to pursue compensation for your damages.

Suing for Mental Health Diagnosis Medical Malpractice

Suing for medical malpractice is more involved than suing for other acts of negligence. And misdiagnosis cases are particularly complex.  For this reason, injury victims seeking compensation for their losses caused by a mental health care professional should contact a medical malpractice lawyer who is knowledgeable in medicine and has a verifiable history of winning cases for their clients.

Once an attorney is on the job, they will first seek to gather the evidence they will need to prove your case.  Evidence that satisfies the elements of (1) duty, (2) breach of the standard of care (aka negligence), (3) causation, and (4) damages must all be proven in a medical malpractice case.

Duty means the negligent professional was your healthcare provider at the time of the accident. Negligence means falling below applicable standard of care, and causation refers to proof that the alleged negligence directly led to the fourth element — damages.

Of these four elements, duty and damages are the easiest for your attorney to prove. Medical records can easily prove both of these elements.  

The third element, negligence, requires your attorney to demonstrate that a reasonable mental health care provider would not have rendered the same care or would not have made the same error. Proving this requires expert testimony.

Causation can also sometimes present challenges, especially in mental health malpractice cases. Proving injuries in the mental and emotional realm is difficult enough. Proving they were the result of a mental health diagnosis takes experience and skill.

Signs of Mental Health Disorders

Physicians often misdiagnose physical conditions of the body.  So it should be no surprise that mental health problems are similarly misdiagnosed by healthcare providers. 

Signs of mental health concerns include:

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Uncharacteristic aggressive behavior
  • Recent onset of alcohol or substance abuse
  • Lowered personal hygiene standards
  • Personality changes
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Recent onset of depression or anxiety

If a mental health care provider is competent, they should be able to avoid all forms of malpractice, including misdiagnosis.

Speak with a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

The Trial Law Office of Bradley I. Kramer is ready to take your call at any time. Our medical malpractice lawyers are also doctors, so we have a leg up on other law firms and can offer our clients more comprehensive representation than most other lawyers. For a free and discreet confidential consultation, contact our office today.

Questions? Contact us