Studies indicate that Americans prefer a beautiful smile to clear skin. They are ready to involve in sizable actions to obtain it. As quoted by Phyllis Diller, many of them believe that “A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.” The number of teenagers under orthodontic treatment in North America has nearly doubled, with 80 percent currently under the care of an orthodontist, with the suggested average age for a first visit now being 7.
Can you sue a dentist? Of course, you can. Dental malpractice statistics suggest that approximately 8% of all medical malpractice trials involve dentists. In this blog, we will bat around dental lawsuits of malpractice, which is a hot topic right now.
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When a dentist, orthodontist, or oral surgeon fails to deliver trustworthy, safe, and effective treatment to their patients according to professional standards, it is referred to as dental malpractice. Dental negligence affects the life of the victims to a great extent, as oral health determines the overall health and functioning of the human body.
Causes Of Dental Malpractice Cases
What are Common Reasons for the Filing of Dental Malpractice Cases?
Recent malpractice suits involving dentistry point out the following as the most commonly reported reasons for filing a dental malpractice lawsuit:
- Post-procedure Infections.
- Disfigurement of the mouth or face.
- Botched extractions.
- Root canal overfill malpractice
- Failure to refer the patient to another specialist.
- Uncontrolled bleeding.
- Medication errors.
- Permanent or temporary numbness of the mouth.
- Permanent or temporary loss of taste/sensation
- Permanent nerve damage and injuries to lingual nerve or inferior alveolar nerve.
- Treatment failure leads to tooth damage or injury from botched restorations, root canals, implants, veneers, etc.
- Using faulty oral devices, products, and materials that cause harm to the patient.
- Dental anesthesia errors.
- Delayed treatment.
- Misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose conditions like Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder, periodontal disease, oral tumor, or cancers.
- Lack of informed consent from the patient or his legal representative.
- Jaw fracture.
- Molesting a patient during sedation
Dental Malpractice Law
When to sue a dentist? Dental malpractice law demands the exact requirements as any other medical malpractice claim. The claimant should prove the patient-doctor relationship along with the below-mentioned elements.
- Duty-When treating patients, the dental professional has the duty to follow the standard of care.
- Breach – A dental provider has violated the obligation if he or she fails to provide the claimant with the exact care as per the local standard of competent care.
- Causation – The claimant’s injury or harm was caused by the liable dental care provider’s breach of duty.
- Damages – As a direct result of the breach, the claimant has experienced injuries and/or harm.
When these standards are broken, and a dental professional’s carelessness or negligence causes harm or death to a patient, this is known as dental malpractice. Also, keep in mind that dissatisfaction with the dentist’s services does not entitle you to sue for dental malpractice lawsuit settlements. This applies to cosmetic dental procedures done by some individuals. Only when dentists fail to meet an acceptable level of care or perform treatment with a lack of standard care you can file a dental malpractice case against them.
The dental malpractice statute of limitations usually begins when the dental professional commits negligent conduct. However, there are some exceptions where the victim may experience the symptoms or complications of the dental negligence months or years later. He must prove that he could not reasonably discover the orthodontist malpractice until later in such cases. This can add a new level of difficulty to your case.
Generally, the statute of limitations for dental malpractice lawsuits is usually two-three years, different in each state. Under North Carolina law (N.C. Gen. Stat. section 1-15(c)), the statute of limitations to file a dental malpractice claim is three years.
Before a lawsuit for dental malpractice can be brought in some states, an affidavit from a health care practitioner stating that the case has merit may be required. In some areas, obtaining a favorable judgment from the state board of dentistry before filing a claim is also advantageous.
It is to be noted that there are dental malpractice insurance policies available to dental professionals in the case of a dental malpractice claim.
Going through the legal requirements of a dental malpractice claim, you would have understood the significance of hiring a dental malpractice attorney for your case. The lawyers for dental malpractice help the claimants with a detailed case evaluation, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the claim. Once the claimant proceeds with a lawsuit, the dental malpractice lawyer will help the claimant walk through the paperwork and lawsuit filing procedures.
The dental malpractice settlement amounts will depend upon the severity of damages sustained by the claimant. For instance, a lingual nerve damage lawsuit will have different settlement criteria when compared to that of a botched tooth extraction lawsuit or settlements for dental nerve damage. The average dental medical malpractice settlement is approximately $65,000.
The Mahoney Law Firm from Colorado got the largest dental malpractice verdict of $2 million in 2017. During the dental procedure, the dentist negligently perforated the tooth wall during drilling. Unfortunately, the plaintiff, 63, sustained irreversible bilateral inner ear injury, resulting in lifelong vertigo.
Role of Dental Records in the Lawsuit
The dental records of the claimant play a critical role in dental malpractice lawsuits and dental malpractice settlements. The claimant must submit his/her current and previous dental documents reflecting all the procedures and treatments varied.
HIPAA dental authorization for the release of dental records allows the claimants to retrieve their dental records from their dental physician. The dental records submitted in the claim should include the following details.
- Medical and dental history
- Progress notes
- Treatment plan
- Reports of imaging studies
- Lab reports
- Medication prescriptions
- Billing details for all consultations and treatment
Is it possible to incorporate the whole dental medical records in the claim? No, the records of malpractice cases in dentistry should be subjected to a comprehensive medical record review and analysis. Medical record review outsourcing companies will handle the process for you, cherry-picking only the most compelling medical data to support your case.
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Damages Covered in Dental Malpractice Lawsuits
Physical, mental, and financial consequences are possible outcomes in a dental malpractice case. Long-term issues with the mouth or body could result from failed dental implants or medication complications. There are cases where dental malpractice has caused cardiac complications in the patients.
The damages covered in dental malpractice litigation would include expenses including medical bills, prescription bills, laboratory expenses, rehabilitation expenses, loss of income, loss of wages, pain and suffering, wrongful death, partial/permanent disability, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life and so on. Dental malpractice settlement amounts would depend upon the severity of damages sustained by the claimant and the losses he had incurred due to the negligence. Cases involving wrongful death or disability factors lead to sizeable dental lawsuit settlements.
Case Studies of Dental Malpractice Settlements
One of the largest dental malpractice verdicts is in a dental malpractice lawsuit in Connecticut. During a root canal procedure, a patient was wounded due to the over-instrumentation of the dentist. It resulted in a considerable overfill of sealer, part of which ended up in the mandibular canal. During the medical malpractice lawsuit, the defendants contested liability, causation, and damages. Only $200,000 was given by the defendant’s insurance company two weeks before trial. After three weeks of evidence, William J. Ronalter from Shipman and Goodwin LLP received a $4,500,000 verdict. The verdict included $165,000 for past and future medical bills and $4,335,000 for pain, fatigue from prescription medications, and a reduction in enjoyment in the claimant’s life. The dental malpractice lawyers also filed an Offer of Compromise the year before the trial, agreeing to settle for $750,000. Because the verdict was more than $750,000, interest accrued from the beginning of the case in February 2013, bringing the total settlement to more than $5,300,000.
In another dental negligence lawsuit, Linda Rizzo, a 58-year-old woman, filed a lawsuit against Dr. Kay after she spent $36,000 on dental care for around four years. She accused the dentist, stating that he had inserted upper and lower bridges that did not fit properly, causing permanent jaw and gum injuries. Dr. Kay was determined to be negligent in the case, and the claimant was awarded $450,000 in compensation for her physical injuries and emotional distress.
Experience should be a significant consideration when deciding on a dentist. Even a minor slip-up on this part can result in a lifetime of oral problems. Undoubtedly, dental professionals who cause harm to patients by reckless activities must be held accountable via dental malpractice lawsuits. It is true that, like any other medical procedure, patients should also anticipate some level of risk in dental procedures. However, this factor does not hold back a patient from filing a dental malpractice lawsuit for the damages sustained in dental treatment. Dental malpractice attorneys established in dental negligence cases can help the victims receive a fair settlement for the injuries.
You may have got answers for queries like- can you sue a dentist for causing TMJ? How much will be my dental lawsuit settlements? Follow the blog for updates.
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