When most people hear about medical malpractice, they likely think about the doctor who forgot to remove a surgical sponge after completing a procedure, a nurse who administered the wrong dose of medication to a patient, or an obstetrician who did not respond to the distress of the mother and child in time during labor. However, many patients are the victims of medical malpractice every year when they make a trip to the dentist.
In order to bring a negligence case, it is necessary to establish the same elements that are required in every medical malpractice case.
Specifically, the following must be shown:
- The dentist had a duty of care to the person who was harmed – It cannot be based on advice that the dentist gives a person while sitting next to him at a ball game. Each party must have made the decision to enter into an obligation to the other one, establishing that the dentist has a duty of care;
- The dentist made a mistake that breached the agreement between the parties – As with other healthcare providers, there is a specific medical standard of care that applies to dentists, which is a standard based on what a reasonable dentist with the same education, training, and experience would have done under the same circumstances. Whether or not there was a breach is determined by comparing the behavior of the dentist who is alleged to have done the harm to what the reasonable dentist would have done. The deviation is a means of measuring the extent of the breach;
- The actions of the dentist were the direct and proximate cause of the injuries suffered by the plaintiff – It is not enough to simply show that the person undergoing the dental work or procedure suffered some type of injury. The actions of the dentist must have led to the injuries, without any intervening factors that might complicate the analysis. If the injury would have happened even without the actions of the dentist, then a malpractice recovery is not likely; and
- The person suffered harm as a result of the mistake – Many times, a person who learns about a mistake made by a dentist or other healthcare provider wants to hold the professional responsible for the error, but if there are minimal or no damages that resulted from the mistake, then a legal case is not likely to succeed.
There are many serious injuries that can result from time spent in a dentist’s chair, including:
- Nerve damage, which can lead to permanent loss of sensation in areas of the mouth;
- Brain damage caused by an improper administration of anesthesia – during a complicated procedure, it may be necessary to administer general anesthesia and there may be serious complications. Young patients may be particularly susceptible to dangerous reactions to anesthesia; and
- Damage to teeth – if a dentist makes a mistake that leads to extensive damage to a patient’s teeth, it can lead to years of painful and extensive dental work to correct the mistake.
It is important for people to realize that they might have a cause of action if they or their loved ones suffered harm after visiting a dentist. As with other medical malpractice cases, it will be necessary to have a dental expert to illustrate the standard of care that applies to the case and how the dentist deviated from that standard of care.
Selecting the right expert is critical to the overall success of a dental malpractice case.
In seeking damages, it also is necessary to demonstrate the financial and emotional toll that the dental malpractice had on the life of the victim and his or her family. This may include extensive medical bills, lost wages and earning potential, loss of consortium (the loss suffered by the victim’s spouse), and pain and suffering. These damages are demonstrating through the presentation of documentary evidence and, in many cases, the testimony of a financial expert. These cases require extensive preparation by skilled attorneys in order to get the outcome that the victim of a terrible, and preventable, mistake deserves.
Stern Law, PLLC Advocates for Those Harmed by a Dentist’s Mistake
Although a dental mistake is not the first thing that a person may think about when medical malpractice is discussed, it is a serious problem that leaves many people suffering from economic loss and excruciating physical pain and emotional suffering. For more than 30 years, the experienced medical malpractice attorney at Stern Law, PLLC have worked hard to get the results that our clients deserve after suffering harm because of a mistake for a dentist or other healthcare provider. Stern Law, PLLC also has compassionate and knowledgeable staff members ready to provide information and resources for those who have questions about professional malpractice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of whether or not you are a client. Call us at 1-844-808-7529 or fill out an online contact form in order to learn how we can help you get through this difficult time.