Suing a Mental Health Facility: When & How to Take Legal Action

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how to sue a mental health facility


This blog explains how victims of negligence in behavioral health facilities can seek compensation through medical malpractice claims if they’ve suffered harm, including emotional distress, due to mistakes made by hospitals or healthcare providers. 

It emphasizes the importance of demonstrating the breach of duty of care and the resulting impact on the victim’s life to establish liability. Compensation may cover various losses, but there are deadlines for filing lawsuits, so prompt action is necessary. Hiring a lawyer, often on a contingency basis, can help victims navigate the legal process and hold negligent facilities accountable to secure the compensation they deserve.

In this blog, we discuss these topics:

Can You Sue a Hospital for Emotional Distress?

If you’ve been harmed by a mistake made by a hospital or healthcare provider, you might be able to take legal action. This is called medical malpractice. It means the healthcare provider didn’t do their job properly, and it caused you harm, including emotional distress.

You can file a claim with the hospital’s insurance or even sue them. This holds them accountable for their mistakes. You can get money to cover things like medical bills and the emotional distress you’ve experienced because of the error.

When something like this happens, it can affect your life. You might feel depressed or anxious, and it can make it hard to do everyday things. If this has happened to you, it’s important to talk to a lawyer. They can help you figure out if you have a case and how much it might be worth based on what you’ve been through.

How Can You Establish Both Your Emotional Anguish and the Hospital’s Liability?

Hospitals can be held accountable for medical malpractice if they employ physicians and other healthcare providers who deliver substandard medical care to a patient. However, if a hospital contracts a caregiver as an independent contractor and that contractor provides inadequate medical care, the hospital may not be held liable for the caregiver’s actions.

To pursue a medical malpractice claim or a lawsuit for emotional distress, your legal representative must establish that the doctor, nurse, or medical facility breached their duty of care.

A breach of duty occurs if a doctor or nurse makes an error that another healthcare provider with similar training, education, and experience would not have made.

Your attorney must demonstrate all elements of negligence in your case

  1. Duty of care
  2. Breach of duty
  3. Causation
  4. Damages

The breach of the duty of care must have caused you damages that significantly impacted your life. It doesn’t necessarily mean you must have suffered critical or life-threatening injuries. Instead, if the mistake by the healthcare provider or facility caused significant trauma in your life, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim or lawsuit.

Proving emotional distress and the hospital’s liability requires meeting the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which means your attorney must present evidence showing it is more likely than not that the at-fault party caused both the physical injuries and emotional distress affecting your life.

Common types of evidence used to establish liability and emotional distress in a medical malpractice claim or lawsuit may include

  • Medical records
  • Witness statements
  • Expert testimony
  • Forensic evidence
  • Communication exchanges

What kind of damages may I expect if I sue a careless mental health facility?

Compensation available to victims of negligence in behavioral health facilities should encompass all losses, past and future, resulting from the negligence. This may include medical expenses, lost wages, and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. Compensable medical expenses and lost wages account for additional treatments, expenses, and losses incurred due to the negligence, excluding expenses already occurring for treatment at the facility.

The exact compensation varies based on individual circumstances. Your attorney can provide insight into compensation awarded in similar cases, but cannot guarantee a specific amount.

Is there a deadline for filing a lawsuit against a negligent behavioral health facility?

Yes, statutes of limitations, varying by state, impose time limits for filing lawsuits. In Delaware and Pennsylvania, typically you have 2 years from the malpractice date to file, while in Maryland, it’s typically 3 years depending on case specifics. Consult a reputable medical malpractice attorney to understand your case’s timeframe.

How long does a legal claim against a negligent behavioral health facility take?

The duration of a medical malpractice claim varies widely due to case complexity, involved parties, and practical legal process delays. Some cases resolve in months, while complex ones may extend over several years.

How can a medical malpractice lawyer help in cases of behavioral health negligence?

A medical malpractice lawyer can assist victims in holding negligent facilities accountable and obtaining compensation for their physical, emotional, and financial damages. Your lawyer will evaluate your case, help you communicate with the facility and their insurer, file the necessary paperwork, gather evidence, and represent you in court if needed.

How much does it cost to hire a lawyer for a claim against a negligent behavioral health facility?

Many personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, meaning they only get paid if you win your case. It’s important to discuss fees and any other costs with a lawyer before hiring them so you understand how much you may have to pay.


In conclusion, victims of negligence in behavioral health facilities have the right to seek compensation for their physical, emotional, and financial losses. A medical malpractice lawyer can provide invaluable assistance in navigating the legal process, from evaluating the strength of the claim to representing the victim in court if necessary. 

While legal fees may vary, many lawyers work on a contingency basis, ensuring that victims can pursue justice without upfront costs. Victims must understand their rights and seek legal guidance promptly, as statutes of limitations impose deadlines for filing lawsuits. Ultimately, with the help of a skilled attorney, victims can hold negligent facilities accountable and secure the compensation they deserve.


Q1. What to do if someone is mentally unstable and won’t get help?

A1. If you think someone is struggling but won’t ask for help, you can call their local social services. You can usually find their number on the council’s website.

Q2. What is the hardest mental illness to live with?

A2. A borderline personality disorder is one of the toughest mental illnesses. People with this disorder have a hard time dealing with their strong and unpredictable emotions.

Q3. What happens if a mental patient refuses medication?

A3. Sometimes, if someone refuses medication, their symptoms can get much worse and they might be in danger. If you think someone might hurt themselves or others, it’s important to get help right away.

Q4. How curable is mental illness?

A4. Mental illnesses can be treated with medication and therapy, but most of them can’t be cured completely. However, treatment can help manage symptoms so people can still live their lives.

Q5. What is the most stigmatized mental illness?

A5. Schizophrenia is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses. People with schizophrenia often feel judged and misunderstood by others.

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