What You Should Know About Dental Malpractice and the Law

As with any type of medical profession, a dentist can make a poor decision when it comes to patient care, which could qualify as malpractice. If you believe you have a case, dental malpractice attorneys can guide you through your case, with the optimal outcome being a settlement for what you’ve been through. However, there are some ins and outs when it comes to dental malpractice and the law, and before you contact a dental malpractice attorney, you may want to familiarize yourself with the process. Read on to learn more about dental malpractice, including examples of malpractice as well as different types of dental malpractice insurance. 

What Is Dental Malpractice?

When students receive their medical diplomas and become part of the medical field, they take the Hippocratic Oath. In short, the Oath stipulates that a dentist will not intentionally harm their patients and offer them the highest standards of care. When it comes to patient care, there are standards for every field of medicine, including dentistry. If a dentist does something that goes against these standards, they have committed dental malpractice. If certain conditions are met, a patient can hire a dental malpractice attorney and file a suit against the dentist in question. Dentists and doctors hold medical malpractice insurance for this type of event, and there are different types listed below.

What Are Some Examples of Dental Malpractice?  

Any time a dentist goes against the accepted standards of dentistry, they are committing malpractice. But what exactly does that mean? There are certain scenarios and examples of dental malpractice to familiarize yourself with. One example would be if a patient went to the dentist, and the dentist either used medicine in the office or prescribed medicine for the patient but failed to ask if the patient had any known allergies. If the patient has an allergic reaction, this is grounds for consulting a dental malpractice attorney. 

Other examples could include if a dentist fails to refer the patient to another specialist if it is needed, misuse or mistakes when it comes to extractions or other dental work, having no informed consent, having an unsafe office where the patient has an injury?such as a slip or fall from a wet floor?or failure to diagnose, treat, or identify certain dental-related conditions. There can be other situations where dental malpractice has been committed, but these are a few examples for reference. 

Conditions To Be Met for a Dental Malpractice Lawsuit

While it’s wise to be familiar with some examples of medical malpractice, if you want to file a suit and contact a dental malpractice attorney, you should also know the conditions to be met for filing a lawsuit. It will be the burden of your attorney to prove the dentist committed malpractice, so they will want certain criteria met before they take on your case. 

First, there must be a way to prove harm. If you were given medication and the dentist did not ask you about allergies and you had an adverse reaction, then this is a malpractice case. The adverse reaction from the dentist not doing their due diligence is what proves the harm, making this a strong case for malpractice. 

It is preferred that the dentist-patient relationship be established, rather than a one-time visit. There still could be a case for malpractice, but an established relationship proves further that the dentist should have followed standards with the patient. 

In addition to harm, a harmful decision must also have been made. There must be proof that the dentist was negligent and went against the standards of care. If the patient can prove harm, then it is often simple to prove the dentist made a harmful decision. 

Different Types of Dental Malpractice Insurance

There are two types of dental malpractice insurance that a dentist can hold: claims-made and occurrence. With occurrence insurance, it is possible to have your malpractice insurance lapse for a time. However, the malpractice would still be covered by this type of insurance.

If the dentist holds claims-made insurance, the incident must have taken place while the dentist was covered, and the lawsuit must be filed by a dental malpractice attorney while the policy is still in place. Otherwise, claims-made insurance is invalid.

Claims-made insurance typically costs less and is the more common type of insurance, although for the dentist, occurrence insurance is a better choice in the long term. If a lawsuit is filed and the dentist is not insured, then the dentist is liable for the malpractice.