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Errors in psychiatric and mental health treatment are thankfully rare, but when claims arise in this sphere of medicine they can do so for a number of reasons. For example, such claims could arise as a result of a delay in the diagnosis of the mental health condition itself or from the negligent misdiagnosis and management of conditions, such as schizophrenia or depression which can, in some cases have catastrophic consequences for both the patient concerned and their family.
Patients who receive sub-standard mental health treatment and care can sometimes experience a serious deterioration in their psychiatric condition which can result in them being sectioned under the Mental Health Act, particularly if they are deemed to be unable to make rational decisions and/or may possibly pose a danger to either themselves or others.
In addition, if there is a death and the circumstances surrounding that death are considered to be unusual or the circumstances leading up to the death are unclear, the matter is likely to be reported to a Coroner who would decide whether or not to hold an inquest.
In these types of cases, because of the nature of the underlying conditions concerned, the individual who has suffered the psychiatric injury or mental health problems may not be considered competent enough to make a claim for themselves, (which in legal terms is referred to as having a lack of capacity). In such circumstances a potential claim would need to be pursued by someone appointed on that person’s behalf, and this is usually done by a spouse, partner or sibling, although the ability to bring such a claim is not limited to these classes of individuals. Shoosmiths have significant experience in this area of law and can handle these most sensitive claims both compassionately and determinedly and can advise you further on this issue.
How do I make a mental health claim / psychiatric injury
This is complex and specialist work and we would suggest that the first step to take would be to call one of our experienced clinical negligence solicitors for a free and confidential initial discussion about your potential claim.
If your potential claim is deemed to have reasonable prospects of success, then the burden of proving that there has been negligence and its impact on the patient falls on the Claimant (i.e. the person bringing the claim). In order to found a potential claim in clinical negligence it will be necessary to prove that (1) the Defendant breached their duty of care (i.e. provided negligent or substandard treatment) and (2) that the negligent or substandard treatment has caused or materially contributed to suffering injury, damage and loss.
There are normally strict time limits for bringing such a claim. Under normal circumstances such a claim must be brought within 3 years of the date of the alleged negligence and a failure to adhere to such time limits can result in the loss of the right to claim. There can, under certain specific circumstances be exceptions to this rule but it is always best to approach an experience clinical negligence solicitor as soon as practicable from the date when you believe that the negligence has occurred and as long as possible before the date of any inquest. This will give the solicitor you have approached as much time as possible to evaluate your potential claim and in certain circumstances time to investigate and prepare to represent you at an inquest.
How long will a psychiatric / mental health claim take
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. These cases are complex and can be very lengthy to pursue and the time taken to resolve a particular case will be dependent upon its own specific facts.
In essence; and as with any clinical negligence claim, we will need to obtain copies of the patient’s medical notes and records, witness statements form the patient themselves (if they have capacity) and any other relevant witnesses, such as family members who may have been present at various consultations with the doctors concerned. We will then need to obtain independent medical evidence, by way of reports from medical experts (usually psychiatrists) who will objectively evaluate the standard of treatment received and express an independent medical opinion as to whether or not the standard of care provided was negligent and if it was, identify what harm has been caused by that substandard care. . This all takes time but it is vital to follow these steps so as to ensure that the claim is properly investigated and the best possible outcome based on the evidence is achieved.
If death by suicide was a consequence of the alleged negligent treatment then an inquest would normally be held. It may be appropriate to await the outcome of the inquest before bringing a civil claim (i.e. a claim for medical negligence) as the information obtained from the inquest and the Coroner’s conclusion may prove helpful to any subsequent civil claim and again the experienced solicitors at Shoosmiths will be able to guide you through these matters.
Inquests are now normally required to take place within a year of the Coroner being notified of the death, but sometimes the process can take longer in some parts of the country.
Shoosmiths priority will always be to help you obtain answers regarding what has happened and why; and where there is a civil claim (i.e. a medical negligence claim), to settle that claim as soon as reasonably practicable.
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If you think you or a relative has suffered due to negligence by those charged with their care, our dedicated experts can explain what to do and assess your chances of making a successful claim.Why Shoosmiths