If you or a loved one has been injured following a dental procedure, you may be wondering if you should engage a dental malpractice lawyer. A lawyer for dentist malpractice may be needed if you wish to sue your dentist for malpractice. If you work with a lawyer, you can recover damages you incurred for dentist malpractice, at the hands of your dental professional.
In order to sue a dentist for dental malpractice, you will be required to prove to a jury or a judge that you were injured as a result of sub-standard care rendered by your dental professional. Similar to medical malpractice claims, dental malpractice claims must be litigated in a very specific kind of lawsuit for medical negligence. Like all negligence-based claims, dental malpractice lawsuits require you to prove four separate elements of negligence in order to prevail. These elements include: (1) the dentist owed you a duty of care; (2) the dentist breached that duty of care; (3) the breach was the cause of your injuries; and (4) you sustained damages.
This article will discuss these four elements in more detail to give you a good idea of whether you should engage a dentist lawyer to pursue a claim against your dental professional. Remember, if you are not sure about any of these elements as they relate to your specific situation, you may need a lawyer for dental malpractice and should allow your dentist malpractice lawyer to review the facts of your case to determine whether you may have a viable claim.
Duty: The Dentist’s Duty to the Patient
Just like medical doctors, all dentists have a legal duty to ensure they comply fully with the standard of care set forth for dentists treating patients. “Standard of care” is a legal term of art that refers to the level of care which an ordinary and prudent dentist would provide to a patient under the same circumstances. For example, a dentist in a rural area would not be compared to a high-level, big city dental specialist for the standard of care test. Rather, the standard of care always compares the dentist in question to a reasonable and prudent dentist of a similar geographic location and a similar educational background.
Breach: The Dentist’s Deviation from the Standard of Care
If the dentist fails to live up to the standard of care, the level of care provided by the hypothetical ordinary, prudent dentist, then in the legal world it is said that the dentist deviated from the standard of care. This is known as a breach of the duty of care to a patient, and you will be required to prove this breach in order to succeed in your claims for dental malpractice. However, just because there is a negative or unfortunate outcome following a dental procedure, it does not always mean there has been a breach of duty. Rather, a breach only occurs if the dentist’s care was not in line with the standard of care. All medical procedures, including dental procedures, carry some level of risk, including that the procedure will not be successful or the healing and recovery time may not go smoothly. However, there are clear-cut examples of dental malpractice that cannot be ascribed to anything other than negligence.
For instance, if a dentist removed a healthy tooth when the dentist was supposed to remove a damaged or infected tooth, that is clearly a deviation from the standard of care. No ordinary, prudent dentist would remove the wrong tooth during an extraction procedure. While some examples are clear-cut cases of dental malpractice, others can be much more difficult to prove. In such cases, it is typically necessary to obtain and use testimony from expert witnesses, typically other dental professionals. Those professionals can review the facts and circumstances surrounding the case and then provide testimony to the court about whether there was a breach of the duty of care owed to the patient in any given situation. To support the testimony that there was a breach, expert witnesses will typically speak to the following issues: (1) the standard of care that was due under the circumstances, given all the facts of the case, and (2) what the dentist’s conduct was and how he failed to meet the standard of care.
Proving Causation: The Dentist’s Actions as the Cause of the Injury
One of the most important pieces of the dental malpractice puzzle is causation. Even if the dentist breaches the standard of care many times throughout a specific dental procedure, unless those breaches of the standard of care caused your injuries, you do not have a valid claim for dental malpractice. It is completely possible that the dentist failed to meet the standard of care during your procedure without causing any harm to you. Alternatively, it is possible for you to be injured during or after a dental procedure without the cause being linked to any breach by the dental professionals that completed your procedure.
In order for you to succeed in your claim against your dental professional, you must establish that a causal relationship existed between the dentist’s breach of duty and any injury you sustained. If you are working with a lawyer dental malpractice case evaluations often talk about the “but for” test when determining whether a case is likely to be successful. You should be able to show that, but for the breach of the standard of care by your dentist, you would not have been injured. If your injuries would have occurred even if the dentist had done everything right and in accordance with the relevant standard of care, you cannot prove the necessary causal relationship existed, and therefore, your case will not succeed.
Damages: How You Were Harmed by Your Dentist
The last prong you must prove in your dental malpractice claim is the damage prong. If you did not suffer any damages, you would not be able to sustain a dental malpractice claim. You need to prove that the breach by the dental professional that completed your work caused you to suffer a harm. Common damages in dental malpractice cases can include: (1) financial damages, such as the costs you incurred to correct the dental professional’s mistake; (2) physical damages, such as a broken or missing tooth or a damaged nerve; and (3) non-economic damages, such as personal or professional embarrassment associated with having a visible problem with your teeth. Any damages that are caused by the dental professional’s breach are valid damages that form the basis for a recovery in your malpractice case.
The four basic elements of your dental malpractice claim (duty, breach, causation, and damages) are the building blocks that your lawyer for dentist malpractice will use to build your case against a dental professional that has injured you. A dentist malpractice lawyer can quickly evaluate your situation to give you a clear picture of whether you have a valid claim that may entitle you to recovery. An experienced malpractice dentist lawyer will help you navigate the malpractice claim process. Malpractice cases can be very complex, which is why you may need a lawyer for dentist malpractice.