gavel and the scales of justice

Can You Sue for Dental Malpractice? What are Your Rights?

For most dental patients, a routine trip to the dental office is uneventful.

As with doctors, we place our trust in our dentist. We have full confidence in what he or she does inside our mouths.

However, there is a rare occurrence when something goes terribly wrong.

It is every dental patient’s fear to be in the dental chair when the dentist makes a mistake, has a lapse of judgement or misdiagnoses.

In such cases, it is possible to sue the dentist for malpractice, given certain criteria is met.

If you’ve been injured by your dentist in a way that is excessive or not expected, here are the requirements that must be met before you file a case against your dentist:

Prove Duty. This first step must prove the patient/dentist relationship. You were the patient and the dentist was performing his duty to your dental care.

Standard of Care. For this requirement, you must prove that the standard of care you received was subpar and, thus, contributed to your dental injury. Generally, the standard of care is defined as the dentist acting or behaving in a way that is consistent with how other dentists in a similar geographic area would behave and act under similar circumstances. To a breach of the standard of care, an expert testimony is required. This requirement is very hard to prove unless something debilitating occurred.

Causation. You must also prove that the injury you sustained was caused by the negligence of the dentist. This step isn’t as clear or as easy as it seems as a patient can show that the dentist made a mistake and still lose the lawsuit. In such an instance, the patient must also prove that the dentist’s negligence or mistake made the injury worse or caused additional injury.

Damages. The fourth requirement you must prove is that the injury caused damage. Typically, the damages involve monetary loss such as needing additional dental work to correct the injury or missing work due to the injury. Sometimes the damages can also be physical such as nerve damage or emotional such as the embarrassment of having missing teeth.

What Are My Rights to Sue

Anyone can sue his or her dentist if the abovementioned criteria are met. However, there are limitations on one’s right to sue.

Informed Consent

Some dentists will have patients read and sign a liability waiver that states the possible risks and complications of the upcoming dental procedure. In some cases, the waiver may also describe the process and what the dentist will be doing. By signing the consent waiver, the patient acknowledges the risks and agrees to move forward with the procedure.

Proper dental work isn’t guaranteed and things can happen. An informed consent waiver is the first line of defense a dentist will use to protect him or her from getting sued.

Even if one signs the informed consent waiver and is knowledgeable about the risks and adverse outcomes of the procedure, one can still sue the dentist should he or she experience additional complications, pain or monetary loss that goes above and beyond the extent of the assumed risks of the dental procedure.

Because of informed consent waivers, it becomes hard to file a viable lawsuit against one’s dentist.

Statute of Limitations

If you feel confident that you have a viable malpractice case against your dentist, you’ll have to file your lawsuit within a set amount of time. The timeframe in which one must file their malpractice suit is called statute of limitations. The statute of limitations vary from state to state and can be as short as a few months or as long as a few years. One should check how long the statute of limitations are in their state. Often if you miss the statute of limitation deadline, you lose your right to sue for dental malpractice. In some extenuating circumstances, the court may extend the deadline.

It can take many months to get the necessary dental records and x-rays the court will require to hear and proceed with your case. Therefore, it’s important to gather all dental documents and records as soon as possible after the botched dental procedure.

dental malpractice case can quickly get expensive and the proceedings can take many years. Patients are strongly encouraged to hire and work with a dental malpractice attorney as he or she will have the knowledge and experience to best help them through their case and get the best possible outcome.

If you think you have a dental malpractice claim and you’re in New York, contact us at Chianese & Reilly Law. Our dental malpractice lawyers and attorneys have many years of experience and a successful track record. We’d love to talk to you and walk you through your legal options.