Everyone wants to have a beautiful, healthy smile. That’s why we go to the dentist every four to six months.
When we visit the dentist, we place our trust in him or her. At that moment, we are at our most vulnerable. Our mouths are wide open and we can’t see what’s being done.
Which makes dental malpractice that much more difficult to bear when it happens to us. But before you can sue, here are five things you need to know.
1. It’s Not Easy to Win a Case
It’s not exactly easy to win a dental malpractice lawsuit. There are a few things you have to prove first.
If you believe you have been a victim of dental malpractice, there are some steps you need to take before you consult with a lawyer.
Look at dental schools, publications, and organizations. You’ll find what are generally-accepted practices for dental care.
You should receive the same basic care no matter where you are in the United States. It also shouldn’t matter if your dentist is expensive or your insurance paid for it.
Make sure you read about the procedure your dentist performed on you before you take any action. Find out what the standard techniques and recommendations are for the procedure.
If you believe your dentist didn’t follow them, you may have a lawsuit.
And while it’s possible for a dentist and his or her team to provide you with unnecessary treatments (like filling cavities when there are none), it’s still extremely difficult to prove.
Most lawyers are only interested in pursuing malpractice lawsuits that are worth a considerable sum of money.
2. Dentists Have a Duty to Provide Professional Care
Every dentist has a legal duty to comply with a certain standard of care when they treat patients.
That standard states that any other regular dentist in good standing, with a similar education and background, would provide you with the same care no matter where you’re located.
Check to see if your dentist has promoted their professional care duty to their patients anywhere.
Often, a dentist provides their patients with literature that discusses this promise of care. Check for any pamphlets they may have in their office.
You can also try looking at their website to see if they made any promises or guarantees.
3. It’s On You to Prove the Dentist Breached that Duty
You next have to prove that your dentist caused your injury. Without that, there’s no way to prove dental malpractice.
See if there are any photos that show how your teeth looked prior to your dental visit. If you saw another dentist shortly before the damage occurred, see if they’re willing to provide you with proof.
Keep in mind, though, that dentists tend to stick together. If they sense you’re interested in a dental malpractice lawsuit, most will close their ranks and shut you out.
All of a sudden, files go missing and you look like you’re insane and on a witch hunt. Be careful who you speak to and what information you share with them.
Make no mention of any potential lawsuits if you are speaking with another dentist. Simply ask them to send you your files, including x-rays. They may charge a nominal fee to do so.
4. How to Prove Your Dentist Injured You
Causation is the biggest part of proving dental malpractice. It’s always possible that your dentist breached his or her duty just by complying with the standard of care without causing you harm.
If that’s the case, often, you’ll have no idea anything wrong actually happened. But if you realize your dentist injured you then it’s time to take action.
You must show that there is a causal relationship between the dentist breaching the standard of care and the injury you sustained. Consider whether or not the actions your dentist took caused the injury.
Since you’re not a dentist, it’s best to speak with someone who can provide you with an expert opinion. In fact, in many cases, you’ll need to provide an expert dental opinion to support your claim.
When They’re Not at Fault
In some cases, the injury can occur as a result that had nothing to do with the dentist. Take, for instance, a case where you failed to mention or didn’t realize you had an allergy to latex.
As a result of the dentist wearing his or her gloves, you had a reaction.
In that case, the dentist was just doing their job. Harm would have occurred no matter what because of the allergy.
In this instance, there would be no grounds for suing, especially if there was no hospitalization and death did not occur.
5. When You Should Sue for Dental Malpractice
Most cases of dental malpractice stem from various procedures. A dentist might perform negligent work, including using the wrong and defective equipment.
Your dentist might fail to diagnose or treat a condition that’s harmful. This includes misdiagnosing tooth decay and gum disease.
If they are proven at fault in delaying a diagnosis or delaying treatment of an oral disease, it’s considered negligence. That includes delaying treatment of an infection.
Lastly, if your dentist intentionally does something wrong, they’re at risk of being sued. Especially if you were hospitalized or it resulted in death.
While there are many cases where a dentist did do something wrong, whether on purpose or by mistake, if the effects were minimal, it’s best to simply let it go and get on with life.
You can also contact the American Dental Association (ADA) but make sure you have all your proof ready. Otherwise, it’s best to let it go and find another dentist.
The Statute of Limitations
Some states have a statute of limitations for when you can file a complaint with the courts.
In many states, if there’s a personal injury lawsuit, it must begin within three years of the date of the injury. If the injury was discovered later, the lawsuit must begin within one year.
Check with your state or ask your attorney to find out if your lawsuit is still eligible.
Take Action Now
If you believe you’ve been injured as a result of a dentist’s actions, don’t wait. Get the help and support you need before the statute of limitations runs out.
We’re here to listen to your case. Contact us and we’ll help you determine what the next best steps are.