Can I Sue a Dentist for Malpractice?
May 12, 2016
Many people aren’t fans of going to the dentist. You have to deal with someone poking and prodding in your mouth. And what if you end up needing to have a cavity filled or – even worse – get a root canal? Such things are often fodder for nightmares.
But there are worse things that can happen to you at the dentist. For example, what happens if you’re injured while under your dentist’s care?
Last year, a Jacksonville dentist was sued in a class-action malpractice lawsuit. The plaintiffs claimed that the dentist “physically abused their children, botched their dental work, and stonewalled parents and investigators when his methods were questioned.”
In order to prove dental malpractice, you have to be able to show that you suffered an injury due to a dentist providing inadequate care. Additionally, you also have to establish the elements of malpractice:
- A dentist’s duty
- Their breach of that duty
- That the breach caused your injury
- What your damages are
The dentist’s duty. All dentists and other medical professionals are required to meet the standard of care when treating patients. That standard of care reflects how a reasonable dentist in good standing in your area who possesses a similar educational background would administer care under the same circumstances. This means that if you live here in Florida, your dentist won’t be held to the same standards as a dentist in California – or any other state.
Breach of duty. If your dentist doesn’t provide you with competent dental care, then he has breached his duty. Breaches of duty can include:
- Improper use of dental instruments
- Unnecessary or improper treatments
- Nerve damage to face, lips, tongue, or jaw
- Oral infection
- Unnecessary surgery
- Improper administration of anesthesia
- Failure to detect or diagnose dental diseases
- Failure to properly examine a patient for certain dental disorders
- Exceeding the scope of consent for treatment
An unsuccessful result, however, doesn’t automatically qualify as a breach of duty. A dentist could have provided the appropriate care with unfortunate results that are out of his control.
For example, if the dentist pulled the wrong tooth, you may or may not be able to sue. Why? First off, this type of injury can usually be corrected. Beyond this, if the dentist believed he pulled out a tooth that was causing your pain and then later realized that tooth wasn’t the cause of your pain, a patient may only sue if the dentist should have known it was the wrong tooth.
In other words, you have to be able to prove that the dentist was negligent in their care and duty. If it’s unclear whether or not the dentist breached his duty, a medical expert might be called in to offer testimony toward the alleged malpractice.
The breach caused your injury. The dentist’s breach of duty has to be directly related to the injury you sustained. Would the injury still have occurred if your dentist hadn’t acted in the way he did? If the answer is yes, you may have a hard time proving the relationship between the dentist’s breach and your injuries, which wouldn’t make for a strong malpractice suit. However, if the answer is no, you will most likely be able to prove the dentist caused your injury.
Your damages. If you didn’t suffer any damages due to the dentist’s breach of duty, your case will be dismissed. The dentist’s actions need to have caused you harm which resulted in damages. Those damages can be:
- Physical: broken teeth, nerve damage
- Financial: expenses related to fixing your dentist’s mistakes
- Non-economic: emotional distress and embarrassment
Being the victim of dental malpractice can be a difficult and stressful time. However, if you believe you have suffered an injury due to your dentist’s negligence, contact a Florida malpractice attorney to see if you have a case and should be compensated.
About the Author:
Since 1994, seasoned litigation and trial lawyer Anthony B. White has helped thousands of accident victims seek damages due to injuries sustained as a result of another party’s negligence. Included in America’s Registry of Outstanding Professionals and selected to the 2012, 2013, and 2014 editions of Florida Super Lawyers, Mr. White specializes in car accidents, insurance disputes, wrongful death, product liability, and medical malpractice cases. He is a longstanding member of the Florida Justice Association and the American Association for Justice and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Broward County Justice Association.