If things went horribly wrong after you had dental work, you might wonder what legal steps you can take. You might suspect dental malpractice but are unsure of what to do next. This blog will explain the legal steps available to you in this situation.
The short answer is that you can file a dental malpractice claim or a dental malpractice lawsuit, but there is much more involved. A dental malpractice attorney can explore the best option in your circumstances.
File a Dental Malpractice Claim Against the Dentist
When you file a dental malpractice claim, you notify the dentist that they committed dental malpractice, that you suffered an injury and measurable losses because of the negligent dental care, and that you want them to pay you compensation for your losses. The dentist is supposed to tell their professional liability (malpractice) insurance carrier.
The insurance company might have you fill out a form and submit receipts for the expenses you incurred because of the substandard dental services. The insurance company might assign a claims adjuster to your claim. The adjuster could deny your claim outright or make a settlement offer.
Usually, you are at a disadvantage if you deal directly with the dentist’s liability insurance company yourself, rather than having a dental malpractice attorney handle your claim. The insurer might make a lowball settlement offer, ask you to give a recorded statement that could get twisted into something you did not intend, or delay until the filing deadline expires and you lose the right to seek compensation.
File a Dental Malpractice Lawsuit
There are multiple procedural rules that apply to all lawsuits seeking financial compensation and some additional rules that only apply to malpractice lawsuits. When you work with a dental malpractice lawyer on your case, the attorney takes care of the procedural issues for you.
One of the procedural rules that could rob you of the opportunity to hold the dentist accountable for the harm you suffered is the statute of limitations, also called the filing deadline. If your lawsuit does not get filed before the deadline, the case will be dismissed. CCP § 335.1 sets the statute of limitations in California malpractice cases at three years.
Types of Dental Malpractice
Many things can go wrong at the dentist’s office, and not all of these constitute dental malpractice. When a person suffers physical harm from dental negligence, which is substandard dental care, they might have a case for compensation.
Here are some of the top examples of dental malpractice:
- The dentist made a misdiagnosis, a delayed diagnosis, or failed entirely to diagnose a dental disease that they should have noticed.
- The dental professional damaged nerves or other healthy tissue when performing dental surgery.
- In the course of dental work, the dentist damaged healthy teeth or extracted the wrong (healthy) teeth.
- The dentist caused an infection or other undesired outcomes because they used tools or instruments that were not sterilized.
- The treatment the dentist administered was not appropriate for the condition or was performed at a substandard level.
- Local or general anesthesia caused harm because the administration of the anesthesia was improper.
- The patient suffered cosmetic damage (disfigurement) to their face, lips, teeth, or jaws from the dental services. The disfigurement could be either temporary or permanent.
- The use of dental instruments resulted in fractured teeth.
- The dentist administered drugs that caused an adverse reaction, and the patient’s medical history indicated the likelihood of the adverse reaction.
There are countless other situations in which dental malpractice could happen. You will want to talk with a dental malpractice attorney if you suspect that the dental care you received was substandard.
Recoverable Damages in Dental Malpractice Cases
The types of dental malpractice compensation you can pursue are similar to those available in other kinds of personal injury claims like car accidents. If you can prove that your injuries were the result of dental negligence, you can seek monetary damages for your economic and non-economic losses.
Some of the common categories of economic damages are:
- Medical/dental bills. You typically cannot recover the cost of the original dental work, but the cost to repair the work and treat your injuries is recoverable.
- Lost wages. If you did not receive your full, regular income because your wounds made you unable to work, that economic loss can be part of your claim.
California imposes a cap on non-economic damages in AB 35 that amended the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA). The cap changes every year. Non-economic damages are losses like pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life. Despite the term “non-economic damages,” these losses can receive compensation in your settlement or court award.
Let Our Dental Malpractice Attorneys Help
The KJT Law Group helps people who get injured by malpractice. You can reach out to us today at (818) 507-8525 for a free consultation on your dental malpractice case.