Medical malpractice occurs when healthcare professionals cause harm due to a failure to meet a patient’s needs. This may occur due to omission, misdiagnosis or incompetent treatment.
According to statistics from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), over 150,000 medical malpractice payments were made between 2004-2014.1 Of this figure, 10% was due to malpractice within the field of dentistry.
Malpractice on the part of dentists or other dental professionals can lead to severe pain and injury and may even result in death. For this reason, victims of medical negligence need to act promptly to mitigate the financial and physical discomforts associated with a negligent dentist. But what exactly can you do if you experience a dental emergency resulting from the actions of a bad dentist?
What Is Dental Malpractice?
One of the worst nightmares a child can imagine is a visit to the dentist. But that child’s nightmare can become anyone’s reality when malpractice occurs within the dental office. Whether it’s an infection due to poor treatment received while removing one’s wisdom teeth, or an unnecessary root canal, you’ll likely rack up thousands of dollars in medical bills and experience physical trauma that is difficult to correct.
According to Medical Protective, a dentist is likely to be sued at least once within a lifetime. With almost 200,000 dentists in the current workforce alone, it is conceivable to deduce that thousands of dental malpractice cases could occur within the next several years.2 It can happen to almost any dental professional once complications result from treating a patient.
Common Types of Dental Malpractice
Dental professionals are most likely to face claims when dental complications are present. These can result from dental implants or extractions, dental anesthesia or substandard treatment of periodontal or other dental diseases. The most common ways in which dental malpractice occurs in the Unites States relates to the following:
- Dental extractions
- Dental implants
- Complication due to endodontic or root canal procedures
- Dental Infections
Regardless of the type of negligence you experience as a patient, you need to understand the laws and procedures within your state that determine how you file a dental malpractice claim. For instance, the statute of limitations.
Dental malpractice statute of limitations differ from state to state. In general, however, there are common requirements present in these statues. For instance, depending on where you live, you will need to file your claim within a certain time period, usually a predetermined number of days, after you receive treatment from the dental professional who is responsible for your injury or dental complications.
Also, some states require that claimants notify the hospital or health care institution in which treatment was received before the claim can be filed.
What To Do If You Experience Dental Negligence
The first thing a patient should ask relates to the state or extent of the medical emergency as well as the strength of one’s claim. If the emergency is due to negligent acts from previous dental treatments, then you will need to weigh your options to determine the best way to move forward. Consider the following factors before seeking a lawyer:
- Does your situation meet the appropriate timeframe for filing a claim based on your state’s statute of limitations?
- How extensive is the harm or injury resulting from the dental professional’s negligence?
- What do I expect to gain from suing a dentist?
- Am I willing to invest the time, money and effort associated with filing a claim?
Note that the cost of suing a dental assistant or oral surgeon can sometimes outweigh the rewards if you have not made preparations to find an effective dental malpractice lawyer. In addition, outcomes regarding dental malpractice cases may not always be what patients expect.
However, consideration of your circumstance in a deliberate manner will help you weigh the risks. If you choose to proceed, have a lawyer evaluate your case to see if you have a strong probability of winning big through high dental malpractice settlements. Take for instance, the $35 million settlement paid to 29 different patients in the state of Washington after a dentist is brought before the courts for “unnecessary” root canals.3
Why Every Dentist Needs Dental Malpractice Insurance
Bad dentists aren’t the only ones being sued. In fact, just about any medical professional can expect to face a lawsuit at least once in a lifetime. With that being said, it’s important for dental professionals to get insurance in case of a lawsuit.
The most comprehensive of these services are offered by malpractice insurance companies that are equipped with the following:
- Expert knowledge of the law, particularly as it pertains to malpractice liability litigation
- Understanding of clinical concepts and procedures within dentistry and how they pertain to the malpractice law within one’s state
- Sound judgement and financial resources necessary for robust defense
As dentists consider getting the best insurance as well as employing the highest quality service within their practice, they will be able to lessen their risk of falling victim to scandals and multimillion dollar settlements. Moreover, patients who are equipped with an understanding of dental negligence will be less fearful of visiting their dentist. After all, they’ll be better prepared to find a qualified attorney and win a comprehensive malpractice settlement if dental negligence does occur.