Dentists and oral surgeons are just as capable of committing malpractice as any other doctor. A dentist can fail to diagnose a serious dental ailment or perform a procedure on the wrong tooth. A dentist can make many errors in the course of your treatment; fortunately, you are entitled to seek compensation for your damages resulting from these errors. If you believe your injuries resulted from your dentist’s negligent actions, call the New York dental malpractice lawyers at Buttafuoco & Associates for help.
What is dental malpractice?
If your dentist or oral surgeon made a mistake or did something that another reasonable practitioner in the same industry would not have done, it may be malpractice. Many different things can be dental malpractice, including:
Not Obtaining Informed Consent
Before dentists and oral surgeons begin certain procedures they must explain the risks and alternatives of the procedure and then obtain the patient’s informed consent. The patient can give consent verbally or in writing. If your dentist or oral surgeon began your procedure without obtaining your informed consent, you may be able to hold her liable for malpractice.
It is important to note that you must have suffered some type of harm. For example, if your surgeon did not explain that dental implants could lead to infection and nerve damage before implantation, you could hold him liable if you suffered either of the above side effects. If you did not suffer any side effects, you likely do not have a claim.
An oral surgeon can make many different errors during surgery, such as:
- Extracting or altering the wrong tooth
- Anesthesia errors (e.g., too much, too little)
- Performing the wrong procedure on the wrong patient
- Failing to assess risk of surgery
- Failing to prevent infection
Lack of Supervision
If a dentist fails to supervise her hygienists and an employee makes an error that the dentist could have prevented, the hygienist and the dentist may be liable for malpractice.
Your dentist also has a duty to refer you to a specialist such as an oral surgeon or oncologist for further examination of suspicious conditions. If your condition worsens because of your dentist’s failure to investigate further, you may have a claim for delayed or misdiagnosis.
Establishing a Dental Malpractice Case
To have a valid dental malpractice case, you need to prove these four elements:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed between you and the at-fault doctor.
- The dentist was obligated to provide you with a standard of care.
- The dentist breached the standard of care.
- You suffered injury and damages due to your dentist’s breach of care.
The first element requires that you are a patient of the dentist and not just asking a friend who happens to be a dentist for advice outside of his practice.
Next, the dentist must adhere to an accepted standard of care for your situation. For example, if you show signs of a severe cavity, the standard of care is to drill, treat, and seal the cavity space. If your dentist fails to treat the cavity, leading to infection and removal of the tooth, you can claim damages for an unnecessary loss of the tooth.
In the above example, the dentist’s failure to treat the cavity as per standard dental practice is his breach of the standard of care. Your loss of the tooth and the cost and pain of treating the infection and undergoing tooth removal are your injury and damages.
These four elements of a dental malpractice case are difficult to identify and prove on your own. In many dental malpractice cases, you need another dental expert to provide testimony on your behalf. This person, an expert witness, will testify to what a reasonable dentist following the standard of care would have done.
A medical witness can also testify to the expected outcome had you received proper treatment. If the expert’s testimony reveals that you would not have suffered injury but for the dentist’s negligent actions, you may be able to recover compensation.
Filing a Dental Malpractice Lawsuit in New York
Under New York’s statute of limitations, you only have two and a half years to file a claim for malpractice damages. If you suspect a dentist’s error caused you avoidable harm, contact a New York medical malpractice lawyer at Buttafuoco & Associates.
Our attorneys help clients gather evidence, establish their claim within the statute of limitations, and pursue a fair and full settlement. You may be entitled to damages such as lost wages, medical costs, and more. Call 1-800-NOW-HURT or fill out our contact form for a free case review.