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Michigan Dental Malpractice Attorneys

Dental medicine is constantly evolving, and scientific advances have increased treatment standards. General dentists perform more difficult specialty services than in the past. As a result, there is a greater likelihood of unsatisfactory patient outcomes due to dental negligence. Patients who have suffered injuries or damages because of a negligent dentist should consult with one of the experienced Michigan dental malpractice attorneys at Sommers Schwartz.

Sommers Schwartz, P.C. is a powerhouse litigation firm focused on obtaining meaningful compensation for injured patients. We have more than 45 years of hands-on experience investigating, negotiating, and litigating dental malpractice claims, and we know what it takes to obtain the best results for our clients. 

Elements of a Michigan Dental Malpractice Lawsuit 

Patients who have suffered injuries because of a negligent dentist, oral surgeon, endodontist, or other dental professionals must establish the following to prove a dental negligence case:

  • The existence of a dentist-patient relationship.
  • The relevant standard of medical care.
  • How the professional breached the standard of care.
  • The patient suffered injuries and actual damages because of the professional’s negligence. 

A Michigan dental malpractice attorney can help patients understand their rights and pursue compensation for a dental injury. 

Dentists’ Duty of Care in Michigan 

Like other healthcare professionals, dentists must provide their patients with a certain level of skill, expertise, and care. Patients trust their dentist has the professional training and expertise to assess their treatment needs properly. Dentists who breach this standard of care may be held liable for any damages resulting from their negligence. 

In Michigan, a judge or jury will consider the degree of care, skill, and diligence they expect a reasonably competent dentist to use under the same or similar conditions. Some circumstances courts review in setting this standard are:

  • The type of dentistry the dentist practices.
  • The accepted practices of other dentists in the area.
  • The facilities available at the time in the area.

Dentists have a special relationship with patients under the law. They must uphold their commitment to providing a high level of care and meeting professional conduct standards. Moreover, they should not raise unrealistic expectations or ignore potential risk factors

A Dentist’s Duty to Warn 

A dentist’s ethical duties include the duty to warn and advise. Dentists must effectively communicate and ensure their patients understand information relevant to their care, such as:

  • Providing reliable diagnosis and health warnings.
  • Securing informed consent from the patient.
  • Informing patients of the side effects of any treatment or procedure.

Dentists must uphold the same commitments and fulfill the same obligations as other healthcare providers have to their patients. 

Breach of Dental Duty of Care

Patients who wish to pursue a claim for damages against a dental professional must establish 1) that the dentist breached the duty of care they owed to the patient and 2) that the breach was the actual or proximate cause of the patient’s damages.

Some common examples of dental malpractice include: 

  • Injuries from wisdom tooth extractions.
  • Failure to diagnose oral or tongue cancer.
  • Root canal procedure injuries.
  • Errors in filling cavities or placing crowns and bridges.
  • Negligence in placing dental implants or veneers.
  • Extraction of the incorrect tooth.
  • Failure to treat infections or prescribe medication.
  • Sexual or physical abuse by the dentist. 
  • Failure to refer to a specialist. 

Incidents of dental malpractice can cause severe and long-lasting injuries. Victims of dental malpractice should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. The law limits the time an injured patient has to pursue a claim; failing to file a timely action may result in losing the ability to recover. 

Dental Malpractice Injuries

Injuries caused by dental malpractice can have life-changing effects. Some examples of injuries stemming from dental malpractice include:

  • Injuries to facial nerves.
  • Numbness, tingling, and loss of sensation or taste.
  • Infections.
  • Temporal mandibular joint syndrome (TMJ).
  • Fractured bones in the jaw and face.
  • Permanent loss of teeth.
  • Severe pain. 
  • Wrongful death. 

Patients have justifiably high expectations for their dental care. Moreover, the rise in aesthetic dentistry has changed some aspects of the relationships between dentists and patients. This shift from a purely professional to an increasingly commercial relationship has led to more complex medical malpractice suits against dental care providers.

Proving a Dental Negligence Claim 

Once they establish the relevant duty of care and a breach of that duty, patients must prove a dental professional’s conduct was the actual or proximate cause of their harm. They must present evidence establishing a causal connection between the injury and negligent care. The central question is whether the injury would have occurred if the breach of care did not happen. If the answer is no, a viable claim for damages may not exist. 

It is important to note that an injury does not automatically mean someone was negligent. Dental malpractice cases require significant evidentiary support. Relevant evidence in a Michigan dental malpractice suit may include:

  • Copies of any communication between the patient and the dental practice.
  • Medical records substantiating the patient’s injury.
  • Photographs documenting the patient’s injuries and effects.
  • Statements from family members or friends present at the procedure or witnessed the impact of the injury.
  • Expert testimony from similarly situated dental professionals.
  • Employment records establishing lost time from work. 

Proving damages in a dental negligence claim can be challenging. Individuals who believe their injuries resulted from dental malpractice should consult with an attorney who can help them gather relevant evidence and present a compelling case for compensation. 

Recoverable Damages After a Successful Dental Negligence Claim 

In Michigan, two primary types of compensation are available to dental malpractice claimants: economic and non-economic damages. 

Economic damages are quantifiable damages like payments for emergency medical treatment, medical expenses, medication, transportation costs, lost wages, and other financial losses resulting from negligence. 

Non-economic damages are more subjective losses related to emotional, physical, and mental distress the patient experienced because of the provider’s negligence. These are more difficult to quantify but can be significant and substantial.

Courts consider many factors when determining how much compensation to award. Some relevant factors include: 

  • The duration and severity of the patient’s injury.
  • The costs associated with treating the injury. 
  • The amount of income the patient lost because of the injury.
  • Whether the injury resulted in any permanent disfigurement.

An experienced attorney can help an injured patient accurately convey the toll the negligence took on the person’s day-to-day life, appropriately assign value to their claim, and pursue the compensation they deserve.

Other Liable Parties in Dental Malpractice Lawsuit

While most dental malpractice cases involve a negligent dentist, some involve negligent hygienists or assistants. Dental hygienists may be liable for:

  • Disclosing protected patient information.
  • Acting outside the scope of their duties.
  • Failing to uphold relevant standards of care.
  • Failing to properly document treatment or care.
  • Incorrectly coding procedures (resulting in denial of insurance coverage).  

Other parties that may be responsible include:

  • Staff members employed at the dental practice.
  • The designer, manufacturer, or distributor of defective or dangerous equipment or devices. 

An experienced Michigan dental malpractice attorney can help injured patients identify all potentially liable parties. 

Defenses to Dental Malpractice Cases

Accidents are inevitable, and not all adverse outcomes are preventable. However, patient care should be a dentist’s highest priority. Medical professionals may prioritize their reputation and financial standing when facing a dental malpractice claim rather than admitting negligence. 

Dental professionals may raise various theories to defend against negligence claims. Patients should be aware of these possible defenses so they are prepared to challenge them appropriately. Dentists may attempt to deny responsibility for a patient’s loss by:

  • Providing documentation of informed consent.
  • Presenting conflicting expert testimony.
  • Disputing the extent and severity of injuries.
  • Trying to disprove the causal connection between the injury and alleged conduct.
  • Using comparative negligence to reduce the amount of a patient’s claimed pain and suffering damages. 

A dentist’s legal team may contend that the dentist’s care met the expected standard of care. Refuting this defense requires skillful analysis and knowledgeable presentation of expert witnesses. A dedicated Michigan dental malpractice lawyer can connect patients with reputable experts to substantiate their claims. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Michigan Dental Malpractice Attorneys at Sommers Schwartz

If you or a loved one suffered an injury due to dental malpractice, reach out to one of the experienced dental malpractice attorneys at Sommers Schwartz, P.C. Our lawyers have decades of experience aggressively pursuing compensation on behalf of individuals who suffered at the hands of negligent medical professionals, including dentists and oral surgeons. 

We offer all prospective clients a free consultation, during which we will explain the legal process, answer your questions, and discuss how we can help you recover the compensation you need, deserve, and are entitled to by law. To learn more about bringing a Michigan dental malpractice lawsuit, call Sommers Schwartz, P.C. at (800) 783-0989 or use our online contact form.

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