Dentists, like other professionals in the medical field, are held to high standards of care. When they breach their duties and harm their patients, they can be sued for medical malpractice.
Proving damages is done in much the same way as other malpractice cases: you must demonstrate that the dentist failed to provide a reasonable standard of care that another dentist in a similar situation would have. This is typically done by working with expert witnesses to prove that your circumstance should never have happened. This involves three factors: the practitioner’s duty as your dentist (and a breach of that duty), causation, and damages.
Duty of Care – and What Happens When That Duty Is Breached
When you become a patient at a dentist’s office, you’re owed a certain standard of care. Injuries may take place that fit within that standard; for instance, complications may result from a major surgery. This is a realistic possibility that may not be grounds for a lawsuit. If the medical professional fails to establish an adequate follow-up treatment plan, though, it may be grounds for a personal injury suit. There are many other types of negligence you may encounter when visiting the dentist.
These events equate to unreasonable danger that another professional would have avoided. A few examples include:
- Unsanitary conditions. All medical facilities must follow strict rules to sterilize instruments and keep treatment areas clean. A dentist forgetting to wash his or her hands would violate these regulations.
- Using tools incorrectly. Similar to other medical professionals, dentists may leave instruments in their patients, perform substandard treatment, or install surgical implements incorrectly.
- Administering anesthesia incorrectly. Whenever anesthesia is needed, a patient must be given a specific amount determined by factors like his or her age and condition. This is a delicate process, but when administered negligently, it can lead to serious problems. For example, a patient may wake up during an operation, be temporarily deprived of oxygen to his or her brain, or slip into a coma.
- Performing the wrong treatment. Dentists may pull the wrong tooth, operate on the wrong area, or install the incorrect equipment. This is a complex field, but that’s no excuse for this kind of negligence. It can happen, though, if a dentist is tired, overworked, or just careless.
- Fatal or life-altering injuries. Many of these circumstances can lead to devastating consequences. Infections, for instance, are a major concern following an operation. If inadequately treated, they may lead to a wrongful death.
If these issues lead to damages, the dentist or medical staff can and should be held liable for damages. Review your rights as a patient, and reach out to an experienced West Virginia medical malpractice attorney to schedule a free consultation.
Your Rights as a Medical Patient
An attorney can help identify exactly what caused your personal injury and the full extent of those damages (which can include ongoing pain and suffering, rehabilitation costs, and compensation for missed work). Moreover, qualified legal representation in West Virginia will go above and beyond to contact expert witnesses and determine whether the negligent party was complying with existing standards of care and industry best practices. This will include:
- Proving a patient/client relationship existed.
- Demonstrating that another dentist in a similar situation wouldn’t have committed the error that led to your pain and suffering.
- Determining whether the injury could have been prevented by the dentist’s actions – in other words, would the injury have occurred regardless of the care provided (or not provided)?
Start by reaching out to an experienced local legal team for more information. Medical malpractice claims are complex and time-consuming, which is especially difficult when you’re recovering from an injury. Schedule a free consultation with Tiano O’Dell, PLLC for expert representation in West Virginia.