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Suing a Dentist For Medical Malpractice

Feb 5, 2018 | Doctor Errors

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Medical malpractice lawsuits are unfortunately not uncommon in the United States or anywhere in the world for that matter. Doctors are humans and sometimes they fall to human frailties all over the world. But since this is America we are focused on American law here and in some cases just New York.

The US Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that in 2005, 16,397 tort cases were decided by a jury or bench trial. Of these cases, 15% were medical malpractice cases.

According to another report by the Bureau of Justice, approximately 5% of all medical malpractice trials in the US involve dentists. Although dentistry does not make up a large percentage of medical malpractice lawsuits, it does take place and it is a good idea to know everything you can in case you need to file a suit against your dentist.

$2 Million Settlement for Teen’s Dental Surgery Death

The family of a teenager who died while undergoing dental surgery to remove her wisdom tooth agreed to a settlement of $2 million with the oral surgeon who performed the procedure.

The family members of the 17 year-old teen, Sydney Galleger, from the Minneapolis area filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Paul Tompach, stating that the negligent and dangerous actions of the dentist while performing the routine procedure resulted in her death in June 2015. Those actions included in the suit included the incorrect administration of general anesthesia and failure to monitor the young patient from Eden Prairie adequately during surgery.

According to news reports, the family filed the case in Hennepin County District Court, which was scheduled to go to trial in May 2018. However, after negotiation between both parties, it was settled in late November 2017.

Currently on the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry faculty, Dr. Tompach’s licensed has been temporarily suspended by a state licensing board.

Dental Malpractice

Professionals in dentistry, including dentists, oral surgeons, and orthodontists, need to have knowledge and keep themselves well informed on the latest techniques and products that are developed in their field. It is also their duty to make sure that their staff members are kept up-to-date on all advancements in the field of dentistry.

Unfortunately, as in other areas of medicine, there can be negligence and mistakes on the part of dental professionals that can result in serious problems due to which patients can require subsequent treatment for many years.

There is a wide range of dental injuries that can be caused by negligence or errors of the part of dental professionals, which include the facial paralysis, severed nerves and other nerve injuries, etc.

Examples of Dental Malpractice

When it comes to dental malpractice, some of the more common scenarios include the following:

· Incorrect administration of anesthesia

· Errors while performing dental surgery

· Improper extraction of teeth

· Failure to diagnose conditions, such as oral cancer, TMJ (temporomandibular joint) syndrome or disorder, etc.

· Failure to provide proper treatment of complications of care, such as infection

· Failure to properly oversee or supervise the actions of staff, such as hygienists, etc.

· Failure to refer to a specialist

· Dental instruments that are left inside a patient’s mouth accidentally during procedures

· Lack of informed consent

Elements of a Lawsuit for Dental Malpractice

In order to ensure that you make a successful case for dental malpractice, a plaintiff, i.e. the injured patient, and his or her medical malpractice attorney will typically need to establish that:

· There was the existence of a dentist-patient relationship

· The dentist provided the appropriate medical standard of care under the circumstances

· That standard of care was breached by the dentist and caused harm to the patient

· The extent and nature of the injury suffered by the patient was serious

Typically, the first element – whether a dentist-patient relationship existed – is not disputed.

The "medical standard of care", or the second standard, means the type and level of care that a dentist with similar training would have provided the patient under the same treatment circumstances. In almost every case, this is established by a qualified expert medical witness who has been retained by the attorney of the plaintiff.

Usually, this expert witness is a health care professional who has experience with the type of procedure that is the lawsuit’s subject. So, if you are filing a lawsuit over complications from a tooth extraction against your dentist, the expert witness that your attorney retains would most likely be a dentist who has performed that same procedure in the past under similar circumstances.

The elements "breach" and "causation" are extremely critical. You will need to prove that the dentist or dental professional caused your injury or worsened an existing condition you suffer from by their action or inaction. To establish causation, it is again critical to obtain testimony from a qualified expert medical witness. Some of the important questions that need to be asked at this time include:

· What are the steps that the dentist or dental professional should have taken while providing treatment to the patient?

· What were the steps actually taken by the dentist or dental professional?

· How did those steps contribute to or cause the harm suffered by the patient?

Finally, it is critical to make sure that the seriousness of the injury is considered before you file a dental malpractice lawsuit against your dentist or any other professional. If the injury that you suffered was only a minor one, e.g., temporary pain and discomfort, then it may not be worth the expense and time of filing a lawsuit, even if the injury was caused by dental malpractice or negligence.

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State Dismisses Most Allegations Against Dentist in Maine

The state has dismissed a large percentage of claims that were made against a doctor in Lewiston facing allegations of poor patient care.

The Maine Board of Dental Practice found that the state did not provide adequate evidence that supported most remaining claims that were made against a dentist, named Jan Kippax. The license of the dentist was temporarily suspended earlier this year when patients alleged that he extracted the wrong tooth and continued to perform painful dental procedures despite their pleas.

James Belleau, Dr, Kippax’s attorney, has stated that he is confident that the remaining allegations against the dentist will be dismissed by the state.

On March 17th, 2017, Dr. Kippax’s suspension ended, and since them his office has opened for business.

In October, a jury awarded a man from Maine nearly $300,000 in damages in a dental malpractice lawsuit that was filed against Dr. Kippax.

This month, the Maine Board of Dental Practice will review the remaining allegations that were made against the dentist.

Steps to Sue a Dentist for Dental Malpractice

Varying from state to state, it may be necessary for you to obtain an affidavit from a health care practitioner that states that the lawsuit has merit before you actually file a dental malpractice lawsuit against a dental professional. In some state, it may also be beneficial to obtain a ruling that favors your case from the state board of dentistry before you bring a claim against your dentist. Your dental malpractice lawyer will be familiar with any and all procedural requirements that need to be met in your state in order to bring your case to court.

Once a "complaint" or "pleading" has been filed with the court, it marks the official beginning of the dental malpractice lawsuit. The dentist, or the defendant, is then given a specific period of time to respond to the pleading – this period is typically 20 to 30 days.

Next, both parties in the dental malpractice case exchange discovery, including documentation such as the dental records of the patient, records pertaining to any subsequent treatment as well as evidence that shows the treatment costs that the plaintiff and/or their dental insurance provider incurred.

The discovery stage of the lawsuit also includes testimony from both parties, i.e., the plaintiff and the defendant, as well as any other fact witnesses, such as staff members employed by the dentist’s office and any subsequent or prior dentists who provided treatment to the plaintiff. Testimony from expert witnesses is also taken. These expert witnesses can be dentists who evaluate the dental records of the patient or experts who testify about the harm that the plaintiff suffered financially as a result of the sub-standard care that the dentist provided while treating the plaintiff.

If the case is not settled by the parties out of court – a large number of dental malpractice lawsuits do end up settling out of court – and the court does not dismiss it, then the case will proceed to trial where a judge or jury will award a settlement to the plaintiff if the defendant is found to be negligent or guilty of dental malpractice.

Damages in a Dental Malpractice Lawsuit

The damages component is the final component that you need to prove your malpractice case. The court will dismiss your case without damages.

A plaintiff will have to prove that you were harmed as a result of your dentist’s breach of the medical standard of care. In a malpractice case, damages can be physical – such as broken teeth, nerve damage, financial – such as any costs that are associated with correcting the mistakes that your dentist made, or non-economic – such as embarrassment because an orthodontist has ruined your once-beautiful smile forever due to mistakes or negligence. As long as your damages were caused by the breach of duty on your dentist’s part, your case will be allowed to stand.

Duty, causation, breach, and damages are the four main building blocks of any medical malpractice lawsuit involving a dentist. If you are unable to make a basic showing of each of these building blocks, it is more than likely that your case will be dismissed before it is even presented to a jury.

To prove your case, it is essential to obtain expert support from other professionals in dentistry, such as witnesses. It is also critical to have competent and salient legal representation from a prolific and prudent medical malpractice attorney with expertise in dental malpractice.

Getting Legal Representation for Dental Malpractice Lawsuits

If you think you may have a viable dental malpractice case, you should consult a well-known medical malpractice lawyer and have them review your medical records and other documentation to determine if you are eligible to file a lawsuit against your dentist. Once your case is reviewed, the legal counselor will let you know the best steps to begin a dental malpractice lawsuit against the negligent dental professional.

Your legal professional will be knowledgeable about all the ins and outs of the process of filing a dental malpractice lawsuit and make sure that you do not make any mistakes during the filing process and also avoid having your case dismissed due to a minor issue. Your legal pro will make sure that your lawsuit is properly filed according to the dental malpractice requirements in your state and that there is nothing that causes your case to be dismissed by the court.

No Firm Turns the Legal Screws Like RMFW Law

If you or somebody you know has suffered serious injury or harm due to the negligence or carelessness of a dentist or any other dental professional, you should immediately seek the help of a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney who has experience handling dental malpractice cases. You can discuss your case and find out what your legal options are.

If the negligent actions of your dentist have caused you injury or harm, you should keep in mind that you may be eligible to file a dental malpractice lawsuit against them. Filing a dental malpractice lawsuit is the best way to make sure that your rights are protected and that you receive the compensation you deserve for your injury and other damages. It is also an effective way to make sure that the responsible dental professional does not cause harm or injury to other patients.

With the help from RMFW Law, you can successfully sue the negligent dental professional and make sure that you receive the settlement you deserve for the economic and non-economic damages you have suffered due to the negligence and malpractice on the part of the defendant. Do not procrastinate, contact Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, of RMFW Law at 212 697 9280 to find that solid legal help to handle your case.

You may RMFW Law nothing up front. We only win if you win. We do not settle unless you are OK with it. Do not sign anything with anyone until you have contacted us. The opposing insurance company is not on your side. Do not sell yourself short.

We have won and continue to win big money for clients. You too can be on this sparkling list. Call us now!