Determining whether you have a dental malpractice case requires research and record review by qualified legal and dental experts. However, there are some very basic rules to help you know whether they have a dentist malpractice case.
What You Need to Prove to Win Your Dental Malpractice Case
In order to get a recovery for our dentist malpractice clients, we have to be able to prove three things:
- Did the dentist make a mistake that no reasonable dentist would make?
- Did this mistake AND NOTHING ELSE cause the damage our clients suffered?
- Would we be able to get a settlement or judgment large enough to put money in our client's pocket after paying the costs of the lawsuit?
You Have to Have BOTH a Bad Mistake and a Bad Injury
Very often people call us with cases where it is clear that the dentist made an inexcusable mistake, but that mistake didn’t make any significant difference to the patient’s outcome. That isn’t a dental malpractice case.
Equally often, there is no question that the treatment caused an injury, but the dentist didn’t do anything wrong. No dental treatment is risk-free, and just because there was a bad result does NOT mean you have a case.
Examples of this situation are:
- A dentist fails to diagnose a condition which is so far advanced that the patient would need the same treatment anyway. For example, it sometimes happens that a patient will have advanced bone disease in their jaw and the dentist fails to diagnose it. In this situation, if the evidence is that the dentist’s delay didn’t make any significant difference in the treatment that the patient would need, there is no dentist malpractice case even though it is clear that the dentist made a mistake.
- A dentist pulls a tooth and the patient ends up with one of the common complications of an extraction – a minor infection, a “dry socket” or temporary nerve damage. In situations like these, the patient usually does not have a medical malpractice case because the dentist can prove that any dentist performing the same extraction under the same circumstances might have had a same complications.
To win your case, we have to prove that what happened to you would not have happened if you’re dentist had been doing things properly.
Your Case Has to Be Big Enough to Make Sense for Your Family
By far the biggest reason we can’t help people is the expense of dentist malpractice cases. The law requires that we obtain expert testimony to support your case. The cost of these experts, court reporters, medical records and other fees often exceeds $20,000.00 – and that’s before you factor in attorney’s fees.
This means that we simply can’t take a case where the patient has been harmed but the amount of their damages is under $20,000.00. And we would never put you through a lawsuit where we know that at the end of the day we couldn’t put money in your pocket. The case has to make sense for you and your family.
Examples of Good Dentist Malpractice Cases
- Dentist’s mistake causes bone damage requiring bone grafts and implant surgery
- Dentist ignores signs of infection and the patient ends up with a long hospital stay that could have been prevented with simple antibiotics
- Dentist who is unqualified ruins a patient’s teeth while trying to put in veneers or caps and the patient ends up having to have tens of thousands of dollars of repair work done
- Dentist cuts a patient’s nerves or badly cuts a patient’s tongue or gums, resulting in great expense and a lifetime of pain or lost taste
- Dentist performs unnecessary care (particularly on children) simply to make money.
- Dentist who doesn't know what he's doing designs or installs dental implants wrong
All of these cases are probably dentist malpractice, and you should contact us right away if any of these things happened to you.
Help Us Help You
When you call us about your case, we are going to need to know 1) what you think the dentist did wrong; and 2) why you think that the dentist’s error caused an injury or expense that wouldn’t have happened anyway.
Please remember that these are two separate questions, and that both are important. If you have given these questions some thought before calling us, that would really help us to make sure we give you the best advice possible.
Another thing that is very, very helpful for us to know is whether you went to another dentist to fix the problems that were caused by the dentist you are thinking of suing for dentist malpractice. If you did, we will need to know whether the second dentist will support your case or not.
Finally, if you have a case where the amount of money involved is less than $10,000, we’re sorry, but we’re just not going to be able to help you. In situations like this, we suggest that you contact the Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners to make a complaint. You can file your complaint outlined by clicking on this link:
If you believe that you have a dentist malpractice case, contact us today by calling 501-404-0062. We have the experience and knowledge necessary to help, and we want to be your lawyers.