Trips to the dentist can be fraught with anxiety, unexpected expenses, and the potential for pain. However, while most visits to the dentist are extremely necessary and end in nothing more than fresh breath and appointment reminders, there are those who suffer more than just the awkward, mouth-full conversations with the dentist. Sometimes, people must go in for more than a simple cleaning, requiring braces, surgery, or tooth removal. And sometimes, people sustain serious injury and death in the interest of maintaining dental health.
Dentistry, like most medical care, is expensive. Even when you have insurance, there can be high overhead that you will need to find a way to cover. And if a botched surgery, bad professional advice, or treatment failure ends in pain, suffering, or even a need for more dental services, what recourse do you have? Luckily, the legal field of negligence may likely help you with these burdens.
Poor dental treatments are unfortunately rather common, either due to poor advice or inadequate treatment. When this happens, you may be able to pursue a negligence claim. A Negligence claim requires that a plaintiff (here, the patient) must prove that the defendant (the dentist or oral surgeon) was lax in their duty of care.
To prove that the duty of care was breached, a plaintiff must provide expert opinion that expresses that the level of care provided by the defendant falls short of the standard level of care required by one in that profession. However, this testimony alone is not enough. Not only must you demonstrate that there was a breach in the duty of care, you also need to establish that if the duty of care had not been breached, you would not have sustained the injury. If the injury or damage would have been sustained regardless of the level of care provided, then you will not be able to recover.
The other avenue of recovery for a patient injured in the course of dental care is a breach of contract claim. A dentist or oral surgeon is paid in exchange for providing a service; a service that they are contractually obligated to provide to the best and fullest extent of their ability. If the defendant provides treatment below the expected standard of care, the patient is entitled to a refund for the services that they paid for versus what they received.
Bringing a Claim
First and foremost, locating the dental records of the patient will be crucial to moving the case forward. Once you have the original dental records, you can demonstrate the change in the patient’s condition from before and after the services were provided. Next, as mentioned above, a patient will need to gain the testimony of an expert to support their claim that there was a breach in the standard of care. After getting an expert to testify on your behalf, you and your lawyer should approach the dentist with an offer of a settlement before taking the case to trial. The dentist will also need to get an expert to testify, and the degree to which the two experts agree will determine how quickly a settlement can begin.
The best way to ensure that your interest are protected in the event of a dental injury or damage caused by a dental procedure is to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.