Can I Sue My Dentist?
Anyone can choose to sue their dentist for a bad dental procedure. This is called a dental malpractice lawsuit, and it is part of the medical malpractice practice area within personal injury law. To sue your dentist, you will need to show that they didn't follow the standard of care required by the dental profession and their failure caused your injury.
A malpractice attorney is the best person to listen to your situation and tell you if you have a strong malpractice claim. Read on to see if you may have a case, and the different elements to prove a malpractice lawsuit.
How Do I Know If I Should Sue My Dentist?
If the dentist did a procedure you did not approve, or the work they did caused an unexpected injury, such as permanent nerve damage, you should explore a dental malpractice claim.
Keep in mind that soreness after the dentist can be expected and last weeks. You may want to get a second opinion on your dental work before spending money on attorney fees.
Can I Sue My Dentist If I Have Evidence?
To sue your dentist, you need to prove five things. Just having a story about what went wrong will not be enough.
For example, an oral surgeon performing a root canal on the wrong tooth is a horrible accident. However, you can't just say it was wrong. You will need to get dental records and evidence from the dentist to show it was wrong.
Some dental offices will try to avoid releasing this information. A medical malpractice attorney knows exactly how to compel medical professionals to release the information your case needs.
The Five Elements of a Dental Malpractice Lawsuit
Without all of the parts below, you will not have a medical malpractice lawsuit that holds up in court. An attorney can help you understand these elements:
1. There was a dentist-patient relationship.
This is easily proven if you have receipts, insurance statements, or emails about the appointment date. Going to see the dentist implies a "duty of care," which means the dentist has a legal obligation to help you during the appointment. You likely would not have a case if you went to a medical school and let students practice on you since you would have signed off on taking a risk.
2. What the dentist did was wrong.
This is called a "breach of duty" and means the dentist did not follow an acceptable standard of care. Think of it this way: If another competent dentist would not have done what your dentist did, you may have a good case. It could involve not diagnosing signs of gum disease or pulling the wrong tooth in a tooth extraction. You will need evidence such as x-rays and testimony from expert witnesses to help prove this.
3. You suffered an injury.
This is called "damages" in a medical malpractice claim, and it covers both the injury that was done to you and the money you want as compensation. Physical pain and suffering can be easy to document in doctor visits or procedures to fix the pain. Being a victim of dental malpractice can also cause emotional suffering and cost you in medical bills or missed work. Your attorney will help you decide how much money to ask for. It should cover bills, missed wages, and possibly extra money for your suffering.
4. The dentist's error was the cause of your injury.
You can show "causation" through expert witnesses or a second opinion from another dentist or orthodontist. Essentially, you need to know the injury was the dentist's fault. If a dentist failed to diagnose oral cancer, but a new dentist also misses the signs, then it is possible the other side could argue that the evidence was not clear enough. These cases always depend on what a "reasonable" person would see or do in similar circumstances, which leaves a lot of room for cases to go either way.
5. You are within the time limit.
Most states have a two-year limit, also called "statute of limitations." These laws can vary by state, but two years is standard for malpractice suits. You can prove this by showing when the appointment happened and when you had the injury or pain assessed by another dental professional. Getting a second opinion of your injury is always a good idea.
Take The First Step: Explore If You Have a Dental Malpractice Claim
If you feel you have a strong dental malpractice case, your first step should be to contact a law firm with an experienced malpractice lawyer. They should offer a free consultation and ask questions about the dental care you received.
Until an attorney-client relationship is formed (when you start paying them), the attorney will probably not offer specifics on the strategy they will use on your case, but they can discuss the validity of your case.
Don't forget that personal injury lawyers are not paid unless they win the case, so they will be very honest about the outlook of your situation.
Contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney to make sure your rights are protected.