Do I Have a Case for Dental Malpractice? | Tiano O'Dell, PLLC

If you underwent a dental procedure and required corrective dental work to repair damage from an incompetently performed procedure, then you have every right to file a claim against the first dentist. However, your success with such a claim hinges on whether the dentist failed to meet an acceptable standard of care for your procedure. Determining this is a complex process that typically requires a second opinion from another reasonable, similarly skilled dentist. If you needed to visit a second dentist to repair the damage done by the first, the second dentist may be able to provide the testimony you need to succeed with a dental malpractice lawsuit.

What Is the Standard of Care?

Medicine is an inherently uncertain field. Some medical conditions and diseases mimic the symptoms of others and unique individual characteristics may also complicate medical treatment. Honest mistakes, equipment failures, and laboratory errors can and do happen. Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional fails to competently execute a procedure or otherwise violates the standard of care for a patient’s situation.

If a dentist performed a procedure to alleviate discomfort or pain but the procedure does not solve the problem, there may be an underlying reason or unique issue the dentist couldn’t possibly determine at the time. However, if a dentist did not properly perform a procedure and harmed a patient by failing to meet the appropriate standard of care for the procedure, the dentist committed medical malpractice.

Filing a Dental Malpractice Claim

Most states require claimants to notify defendants within 90 days of filing a medical malpractice claim, and the medical board with jurisdiction over the defendant will review the claim before the claimant can proceed with the lawsuit. This board review generally entails a medical consultant who reviews the claim and offers a recommendation based on his or her findings, the evidence in the claim, and testimony from relevant experts.

Once the medical board approves a claim, the plaintiff can proceed with the lawsuit. For a lawsuit over botched dental work, before and after photos from the original procedure as well as before and after photos from the corrective procedure will be very valuable pieces of evidence. If the first dentist’s failure or negligence is blatantly obvious, the plaintiff should have minimal trouble securing compensation for the claim. When the damage done by a negligent dentist is not so obvious, expert witness testimony is crucial as is legal representation by a skilled medical malpractice lawyer in West Virginia.

Valuing Your Medical Malpractice Claim

One of the major problems that many plaintiffs with dental malpractice claims encounter is the relatively low value of their claims compared to the high costs of pursuing those claims in court. Attorneys’ fees are expensive, and a botched dental procedure may only result in a few hundred or few thousand dollars’ worth of damages. In some cases, it may cost more to pursue a dental malpractice claim than to simply see another dentist for a corrective procedure.

A plaintiff’s attorney should provide a clear picture of the damages available in a dental malpractice claim. It’s possible that a correction may only cost a plaintiff a few hundred dollars, but the pain associated with the first incompetently executed procedure was substantial and interfered with the plaintiff’s ability to work. In such a case, the non-economic damages for pain and suffering and economic damages for lost income will likely eclipse the cost of restorative medical care.

It’s unwise to pursue a dental malpractice claim that costs more than it recovers, so plaintiffs must weigh their options carefully. If you are unsure whether you have grounds for a dental malpractice claim, or you don’t know whether it would be worth the trouble and expense to pursue such a claim, reach out to a local West Virginia personal injury attorney experienced in medical malpractice cases who can provide you with a realistic interpretation of your claim.