When Does My Patient Have Valid Legal Claim?

Bryan L. Welch

Litigation should never be undertaken lightly nor with a frivolous claim.
And part of the insidious nature of the abuse perpetrated on mental health
patients is that for many, the arduous struggle of litigation is
contraindicated by their clinical condition. For others, however, seeing
that they are not helpless to do something about their mistreatment can be
extremely helpful. In addition, families of deceased victims of managed care
malpractice, often feel that the only way something constructive can come of
their loved onesi death is to file suit in the hope that it might prevent
others in the future from having to suffer as they have.

But how do patients or treating professionals untrained in the law know when
the patient may have a valid legal claim? The best rule of thumb to apply in
determining whether it is at least worthwhile for patients so inclined to
consult an attorney is simply to ask, iHas the patient been significantly
harmed by the managed care companyis behavior?i

That is the threshold question, and it is the treating clinician, not an
attorney, who has the relevant expertise to answer it. Attorneys who believe
in the merits of the case should be willing to work on a contingency fee
basis and if they are not, the patient should (and probably will have to)
look elsewhere. Many attorneys do not understand mental health care.

Therefore, if the attorney says there is no case or that there have ibeen no
provable damages, a second opinion may be in order.

From Mental Health Weekly Vol. 6 #4 January 22, 1996

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