Just as doctors can be held liable for making mistakes that cause patients injuries, so can dentists. When dentists act incompetently, negligently, or recklessly while treating patients and fail to deliver treatment within the acceptable standard of care, their negligence can cause severe pain, suffering, and permanent injuries. Sometimes, the patient may require additional dental treatment to repair the injury caused by the negligent dentist. In rare cases, dental malpractice can even result in fatal injuries.
If you or your loved one suffered injuries due to dental malpractice, you may have the right to pursue a lawsuit for monetary damages to compensate you for past and future medical expenses, lost income, lost earning capacity, physical damages, pain and suffering, and more. The skilled dental malpractice attorneys of Stanfield Bechtel Law are prepared to fight for you. We represent clients in a wide range of professional malpractice claims throughout Connecticut.
What Is Dental Malpractice?
Dental malpractice refers to cases in which patients receive treatment that is not within the acceptable standard of care expected of dental professionals in the area. Incompetent, inattentive, and otherwise poor dental treatment can lead to serious injuries. Dental malpractice cases can also occur at the hands of hygienists and other dental professionals, not just dentists. Victims of malpractice can pursue a civil claim for compensation by filing a lawsuit against the negligent party or parties.
It’s important to understand that not every mistake a dentist makes constitutes malpractice. To prove that the dentist is liable for your damages, you must prove the following elements of a Connecticut dental malpractice claim:
- The dentist owed you a duty of care arising from the dentist-patient relationship. Typically, this is evidenced by the fact that you visited and received services from the dentist.
- The dentist breached the duty of care. More specifically, this means the dentist failed to take actions or precautions that a competent dentist would have taken when treating a patient with a similar condition and under similar circumstances. Generally, plaintiffs need to use expert witness testimony to explain the applicable standard of care and how the dentist beached it.
- The breach caused injury to the patient. Some dentists try to defeat this element by blaming a natural complication or pre-existing condition, so your lawyer will work to refute such a defense.
- The injury resulted in damages to the patient. Some examples of possible damages are listed below.
Common Causes of Dental Malpractice
There are many different types of dental negligence. Injuries can occur whenever a dentist is not paying attention, is overworked, or lacks the skills needed to treat patients. Some of the most common reasons patients suffer dental malpractice include:
Even a dental office that looks clean may not be properly sanitized. When dentists and staff members do not take the time to sanitize their instruments, dangerous bacteria can pass from one patient to the next. If a patient has an infection, subsequent patients treated with the same unsanitary dental equipment can develop complications.
Dentists may become exhausted by treating too many patients in one day. Even if a dentist works reasonable hours at the dental practice, their personal lives may be causing them not to get enough sleep. Drowsiness can cause dentists to make simple mistakes they wouldn’t otherwise make if they were fully rested.
Miscommunication and clerical errors
When a dentist and a staff member or a dentist and another dentist miscommunicate, preventable errors can occur. Dentists should take and organize notes on their patients to keep track of all of their symptoms and allergies. Miscommunication can result in dentists performing the wrong procedure, skipping an essential step, or even treating the wrong patient. Dentists also have a legal responsibility to ensure that they obtain informed consent, meaning the patient understands the risks and benefits of the procedure he or she is about to receive.
Failure to administer anesthesia or sedation properly
Anesthesia is potentially deadly and must be administered with the utmost care. The same is true for sedation which is often used in more complicated dental procedures. A patient may suffer significant and potentially fatal injuries while under anesthesia or sedation. Even simple dental operations like the removal of teeth could have deadly consequences.
Failure to properly diagnose and/or propose treatment
When a patient needs treatment, some dentists do not properly plan out the course of treatment that will work with a given patient and do not pay attention to all of the circumstances. Dentists also can failure to properly diagnose a dental issue, causing it to be left untreated and/or worsen.
Treating beyond one’s specialty
There are many different types of dental specialties and many different types of dentists: general dentists, orthodontists, endodontists, prosthodontists, and oral/maxillofacial surgeons are only some of the types. While it is permissible for some specialists to treat certain conditions, sometimes your dentist does not have competence or enough experience to do the treatment and this can cause errors.
Other common examples
A dentist could also face a malpractice lawsuit for:
- Failing to accurately diagnose and treat the patient’s conditions
- Injuring the patient’s nerves or gums
- Failing to diagnose dental issues and omitting to treat over a course of years
- Fracturing or chipping the patient’s teeth
- Improperly performing a tooth extraction or root canal
- Being distracted during a dental procedure
- Not having sufficient experience to perform a procedure
Compensation Available in a Dental Malpractice Case
The last element in a dental malpractice case requires you to prove that you suffered damages due to the dentist’s negligence. The damages can vary depending on the facts in your unique case.
If your dentist caused you an injury that resulted in expensive medical bills, you could pursue compensation for these expenses. You can also seek compensation for future medical costs you may incur to treat the previous dentist’s errors.
If you’ve had to take time off from work or you can’t return to work due to a permanent disability caused by your dental injuries, you can recover compensation for those damages as well. Finally, you can pursue what is known as non-economic damages, which include pain and suffering.
The attorneys at Stanfield Bechtel Law have the experience and professional network needed to help you fairly estimate all of your damages so we can pursue a reasonable amount of compensation.
Contact a Connecticut Dental Malpractice Attorney
Dental malpractice claims can be more complex than other types of professional malpractice, due to the medical and scientific nature of the claims and evidence involved. If you live in Connecticut and you were injured by a dentist or other dental professional, it’s crucial that you understand your legal rights. You only have a limited amount of time to file a claim for compensation. Contact Stanfield Bechtel Law today to schedule a case evaluation with an experienced dental malpractice attorney.