Do You Have a Case against a Mental Health, Psychiatric, or Behavioral Health Hospital?

A psychiatric hospital – also known as a mental health hospital and behavioral health hospital – is one that is primarily engaged in providing, by or under the supervision of a Doctor of Medicine or Osteopathy, psychiatric services for the diagnosis and treatment of mentally ill persons.  It also satisfies certain general hospital requirements under the Social Security Act, meets various required staffing requirements, and maintains necessary clinical and other records on patients to provide treatment.

These hospitals specialize in treating serious mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression.  Some specialize in short term, outpatient therapy for lower risk patients. For example there could be a situation where you are “302’d”.  Section 302 of the Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act provides for an emergency involuntary examination and treatment not to exceed 120 hours when there is a reasonable belief that a person is severely mentally disabled to the extent that immediate treatment is required.  Under this scenario you can be transferred to a psychiatric or mental health hospital for a brief period of time until it is determined that you are no longer a danger to yourself or others. There are also psychiatric hospitals that specialize in more long term or permanent care for patients.

What can I do if a family member is suffering abuse or neglect?

If you or a family member is being treated at one of these institutions for a mental illness and suffered some type of injury from neglect, under the Mental Health and Procedures Act (MHPA), 50 P.S. § 7101 et seq, you may have to show more than regular negligence in the care and treatment of you or your family member to have a case.  Instead the MHPA requires that you show willful misconduct or gross negligence.  

Gross negligence is a form of negligence where the facts support substantially more than ordinary carelessness, inadvertence, laxity, or indifference. The behavior of the defendant must be flagrant, grossly deviating from the ordinary standard of care.  At the end of the day it essentially depends on the facts of your case in order to determine if there was gross negligence in your care. Willful misconduct is defined for immunity purposes as conduct whereby the actor desired to bring about the result that followed or at least was aware that it was certain to follow, so that such desire can be implied.  So even if there is no statement by an actor that they wanted something harmful to happen to you, if their acts were obviously going to cause you or your family member harm, willful misconduct can be implied. Whether there is willful misconduct in your or your family member’s case will also depend on the facts.

How can I Determine if there was Negligence from a Psychiatric Hospital?

In order to determine if there was gross negligence or willful misconduct in your, or your family member’s, care at a psychiatric hospital you will have to get your medical records.  An experienced attorney will have authorizations you can sign that they can use to get those records. If you made a complaint to your state’s Department of Health about your care at the hospital they may have conducted an investigation called a survey.  During this process they will review your records and interview various staff involved in your care. The surveyor will note any violations they found of the various regulations and federal statutes governing such hospitals. This survey report and the violations the surveyor found can help prove your case against the psychiatric or mental health hospital.  Your attorney will also have to contact appropriate medical experts who specialize in psychiatric care at these mental health hospitals because their support of your case is required to go forward with your case.

The Thistle Law Firm is experienced at handling claims against psychiatric, mental, or behavioral health hospitals.  If you or a family member suffered some type of harm while treating at one and believe there was negligence involved, the attorneys at the Thistle Law Firm are here to take your call and answer your questions at 215-568-6800. 

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