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Dentists, like any other medical professionals, are held to a particular standard of care in their practice. When they fail to provide care on that standard, they may have committed medical malpractice. You might be wondering if you have been the victim of medical malpractice based on injuries you received at the dentist’s office.
Below, we will discuss what dental malpractice cases can entail and how a dentist injury lawyer can help you with your case. You will also learn the elements of a medical malpractice case so that you can gain a basic understanding of the legal process that your case must go through.
If you or a loved one has been injured at the dentist’s office, you might be able to recover for your injuries. Call (800) 863-5312 to schedule a free case evaluation with the Zinda Law Group attorneys. Our experienced dentist injury attorneys will listen to your case and help you determine how to proceed.
Do I have a dental malpractice case?
There are many ways that things can go wrong in the dentist’s chair. At every stage of the procedure, there is a risk that the dentist may be negligent and commit malpractice. From diagnosis to anesthesia, surgery to recovery, there are standards of care that the dentist must maintain. The following are just a few examples of how a dentist might fail to keep the duty to uphold those standards.
Nerve damage is one of the most common dental malpractice injuries since it is often caused by other injuries during various kinds of procedures. Two of the most frequently damaged nerves link to the lower jaw. Some nerve damage is temporary, but in certain cases it might be permanent. Extractions and implants are common surgeries that can cause nerve damage.
Implants and Extractions
Dental implants are used to replace missing teeth. The anchor of the implant connects to the bone of the jaw or skull. One can imagine how a deep hole through the gum tissue might cause the implant to touch, disrupt, and sever nerves.
Extraction provokes a similar issue. Many dental patients are familiar with extraction from the removal of their wisdom teeth. Between 1 and 8 percent of wisdom tooth extractions result in nerve damage, although 90 percent of those instances resolve within 8 weeks.
Complications with Anesthesia
Any time a patient receives anesthesia, there is a slight risk of overdose. However, the risks commonly associated with surgery are more likely linked to the patient’s preexisting conditions than to the anesthesia. If your doctor fails to ask you vital questions about your preexisting conditions before you undergo surgery, then your doctor may have failed to obtain your informed consent, which is a type of medical malpractice.
Failure to Diagnose
Finally, a dentist could fail to diagnose a patient’s disease. Untreated infections and oral cancer are just two serious conditions for which any dentist should inspect patients. Each of these conditions left untreated can lead to death. A dentist can identify a bacterial infection by noting any cavities and listening to a patient’s other symptoms.
What stops my case from being malpractice?
Unfortunately, the mere fact that you sustained an injury at the dentist’s office does not mean that you automatically qualify for compensation. If your dentist made you aware of the risks of the procedure and you consented, you might not have a strong case for dental malpractice.
However, if the severity of your injuries surpasses any of the risk you anticipated, you could still qualify. Be sure to go back over the documentation and consent forms that you signed prior to your surgery. You may want to discuss with a personal injury attorney near you whether you can recover for your injuries.
Should I find a personal injury attorney near me?
In order to determine whether you would like to hire a personal injury lawyer near you to help with your case, you should know a few things about the process you must go through to recover for your injuries. You must know which documents to present as evidence and for which kinds of compensation you can negotiate a settlement.
Even though most cases settle and do not go to trial, you will still need to build a trial-worthy case to get the best compensation possible. There are specific elements you must develop in a malpractice case, including a duty of care, a breach of that duty, an injury for which you can be compensated, and the injury’s connection to the doctor’s breach of duty.
The Dentist’s Duty of care
Because medical professionals have a duty to provide a standard of care, their actions might be considered negligent if they fail to perform at that standard. Typically, that standard of care is comparable to what the average qualified doctor in the same area of practice does. There are several factors to consider within this general definition.
- The doctor has a duty to uphold the standard of care of the average physician in the same field. Therefore, your dentist’s precautions need not be the most rigorous in his or her area of practice to meet this standard.
- The doctor’s standard of care is measured against that of doctors in similar areas of expertise. For example, your dentist will not be held to the same standard as a neonatal surgeon.
- A doctor who uses less popular procedures has not necessarily breached the duty of the standard of care. So long as the procedures are generally acceptable among dentists, the dentist likely met the appropriate standard.
Some examples of the duty of care in dentistry include obtaining informed consent and following proper procedures for administering anesthesia and performing surgeries.
Evidence Gathering for the Duty of Care
In addition to building the malpractice case by establishing those elements, you must have the appropriate paperwork to file. You will need your consent forms and any literature that you received informing you of the risks of your surgery. You will also need billing information along with documentation of your time off of work.
To establish a standard of care, you may also need to find an expert witness to testify as to the proper standard of care to prevent the injury you sustained. The expert witness will most likely be a dentist who performs similar procedures to those performed by the defendant dentist. An experienced dentist injury attorney will have a network of dentists to provide an expert witness.
Breach of the duty of care
Once you have determined what standard of care your dentist owed you in your case, you must show that your dentist breached that standard. A dentist breaches the duty to uphold the standard of care when he or she has not taken the precautions that an average dentist takes.
For example, if you establish that the standard of care is for the dentist to obtain informed consent from the patient, there could be a breach if the dentist performs surgery on the wrong tooth. In that case, you have consented to have surgery on a particular tooth, so the dentist did not have your consent to perform on a different tooth.
Next, there are two things that you must establish about your injury. You must show that your injury resulted from your dentist’s breach of the standard of care and that you can be compensated for the injury.
A court can award damages for pain, considerable loss of income, or disability as a result of the malpractice. In an attempt to get a settlement, you will need to negotiate with the other parties and the insurance companies involved. If the parties cannot agree on the settlement amount, you may need to go to trial to get the compensation you deserve. A dentist injury lawyer will know the kind of compensation you could receive and the amount you might be able to win based off your specific case.
Kinds of Compensation
Victims of malpractice may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages, and in some cases, they may also receive punitive damages to punish the doctor and deter other doctors from harming patients in the way that your doctor harmed you.
Economic damages are easily identifiable as financial expenses you incurred as a result of your injury, including additional medical expenses and lost wages from missed work. Non-economic damages are more difficult to determine since they often include such priceless injuries as pain and suffering. However, it is common to still receive such damages in malpractice cases.
our Personal injury lawyers near you can help
If you were injured at the hand of your dentist, you deserve justice. Our skilled lawyers can help you decide whether to pursue your claim. Call the Zinda Law Group attorneys at (800) 863-5312 in order to schedule your free consultation.
Our dental malpractice lawyers can hear about your case and may decide to work with you to try and help you recover. As our client, you could benefit from our No Win, No Fee Guarantee. That means that you do not pay us unless we win your case for you.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.