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Detroit Dental Malpractice Attorneys

Detroit Malpractice Lawyers Help Those Who Suffer Dental Negligence

Few people enjoy going to the dentist, even when a procedure goes well. When negligence occurs, patients may have to spend even more time in a dentist’s chair – now, with shattered confidence that the procedure will have beneficial results. 

While dental malpractice claims are less common than medical malpractice claims, dental events can be just as devastating as other types of medical negligence. You trusted your dental professional to perform their work well, and they failed to live up to that trust. As a result, you face pain, suffering, and other serious losses. 

Dental malpractice can have serious consequences. If you’ve been injured and you suspect a dentist’s negligence is to blame, talk to an experienced Detroit dental malpractice lawyer today. 

What is Dental Malpractice? 

Dental professionals owe their patients a duty of care. This duty calls for dental professionals to follow current professional standards in their work. When dentists and other professionals fall below this professional standard, a case for dental malpractice may result. 

To demonstrate that dental malpractice occurred, a patient must show that:

  • A dentist-patient relationship existed. Dental professionals have a duty to adhere to the standards of care when treating patients. Attending a doctor’s appointment is one example that a dentist-patient relationship exists. 
  • The dental professional failed to meet the standard of care. Failing to meet the standard of care is also known as a “breach of duty.” Evidence is required to establish a failure to meet the standard of duty. Testimony from expert witnesses and documentation like x-rays can help determine whether the standard of care was met. 
  • The breach caused the patient’s injury. In a dental malpractice case, it’s not enough that the patient suffered harm or was displeased with the results of treatment. The harm suffered must be linked to the dental professional’s failure to meet the standard of care. The harm must also be a foreseeable result of the failure to meet the standard of care.
  • The patient suffered damages a court can address. Courts typically address losses through monetary damages. Costs like added medical bills and lost wages are often compensated in this way. Damages may also be awarded for losses like pain and suffering. 

Dentists are not the only dental professionals who may face malpractice claims. Endodontists, orthodontists, and periodontists may also be named in dental malpractice lawsuits. Even dental hygienists may be included when appropriate. According to the National Practitioner Data Bank, 49 medical malpractice claims between 2010 and 2019 included dental hygienists.

Injured patients may work with an experienced attorney of their choice to build their dental malpractice claim. In these claims, the burden of proof is on the patient. The patient must show that negligence occurred and that it caused foreseeable harm. An experienced Detroit dental injury lawyer can help you build a case for malpractice. 

Dental Malpractice Statistics

The number and value of dental malpractice claims have risen in recent years. Currently, about 2,000 dentists nationwide face at least one malpractice claim each year.

Dental malpractice statistics show that the most common issues in dental malpractice claims include:

  • Problems related to extractions (26 percent),
  • Implant or prosthetic failures from improper evaluations (20 percent),
  • Endodontics issues, including nerve and sinus damage (17 percent),
  • Anesthesia, injection nerve damage, and drug reactions (11 percent). 

Approximately 85 percent of dental malpractice claims involve procedures that require a high degree of technical skill, such as root canals and implants. Dental professionals performing these procedures must rely on their skills and clinical judgment – and ensure that these conform to accepted standards of care. 

Although dental malpractice claims are less common than medical malpractice claims, the consequences can be severe. Among all dental malpractice claims, 92 percent involved “medium” or “high” clinical severity injuries to patients.

Medium-severity cases involved damage to oral structures and tissue, like teeth, bones, and gums. Many medium-severity cases also involved secondary infections. In high-severity cases, patients experienced disabling paresthesia (tingling), permanent problems with tooth or jaw function, or infections that became septic, spreading throughout the body.

About one in ten (10 percent) of all dental malpractice cases involve claims of nerve damage. These cases are less common than many other types of dental injury claims. However, nerve damage cases also tend to result in larger damages awards than other types of dental malpractice cases. 

In addition to dental malpractice claims, dental professionals may face “adverse actions,” such as formal reports filed with their professional governing body. According to the National Practitioner Data Bank, the number of adverse actions filed against dentists trends is lower than the number of dental malpractice payments made in most years. During the 2010s, for instance, dentists in the US made a total of 16,337 payments in malpractice claims and faced 13,772 adverse action reports. 

Types of Dental Malpractice Injuries

Dental malpractice can cause several injuries – not all of which are directly related to the teeth, mouth, or jaw. Common types of dental malpractice include:

  • Negligent dental work, which may require revision to fix,
  • Failure to diagnose or treat a dental condition,
  • Incorrect or delayed diagnosis or treatment, or
  • Medication errors, including anesthesia errors. 

Failure to properly sterilize equipment and tools is a common claim in dental malpractice cases as well. Injuries from sharp tools can occur if a dental professional or hygienist is not taking proper care while treating a patient. 

Like other healthcare professionals, dentists also have a responsibility to update a patient’s medical history regularly. Updates should include a note that no changes have occurred if the patient’s medical history has stayed the same. Accurate charting helps ensure that patients don’t receive the wrong medication or treatment for their underlying medical conditions. When dental offices don’t pay attention to accurate charting, serious harm can result. 

Injuries that may occur as a result of these missteps include:

  • Damage to teeth or other structures and tissues,
  • Nerve damage resulting in loss of feeling or paresthesia (tingling) that won’t stop,
  • Infections, which can spread throughout the body, and 
  • Chronic pain. 

Nerve damage most often involves the inferior alveolar nerve or the lingual nerve. Patients with damage to these nerves may lose sensation in the lips, tongue, or mucous membranes. As a result, they may lose their sense of taste or have difficulty speaking. 

Nerve damage cannot always be repaired. Even when nerve repair is possible, it requires additional medical procedures and costs that may weigh heavily on an injured person. 

Typical Compensation for Dental Malpractice in Detroit 

The last step in any dental negligence case is for the patient to demonstrate that their losses can be compensated by a court. 

Losses in a dental malpractice case can take many forms. They may include:

  • Physical losses, such as the loss of a tooth, permanent numbness or tingling from nerve damage, ongoing pain, or the inability to use your face, mouth, or tongue as usual.
  • Financial losses, such as added medical costs to treat the injuries caused by negligence, lost wages from attending extra appointments to treat the injuries, transportation costs to these added appointments, and other out-of-pocket expenses. 
  • Mental and emotional losses, like pain and suffering, traumatic reactions to reminders of the injury, or the embarrassment of being seen with a gap in your smile or nerve damage that causes facial drooping. 

Courts cannot turn back time or undo the harm you have suffered. Instead, they seek to right the balance by awarding money damages. In rare cases, courts take other steps as well, such as by issuing injunctions to stop or compel certain actions. 

In dental malpractice cases, damages may be divided into two categories: Economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages include losses with easily-calculated dollar amounts. Economic damages are often proven through documents like receipts, invoices, and pay stubs. Examples of economic damages include:

  • Past and future medical bills,
  • Lost income from work, both in the past and future,
  • Transportation expenses and other out-of-pocket costs related to the injury.

Non-economic damages compensate an injured person for losses that are harder to calculate but just as real. Common types of non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and suffering,
  • Physical disfigurement, such as scarring,
  • Emotional and mental anguish,
  • Loss of enjoyment of life. 

Non-economic damages can be especially important to address in dental malpractice cases. Dental negligence can cause lingering fear, pain, and aversion to future dental care – even the care required to address the harm caused by the initial malpractice. 

Contact Our Dental Malpractice Attorneys Today To Discuss Next Steps

Going to the dentist already represents an interruption in your regular routine. When dental malpractice occurs, additional dental work to treat your injuries can create an overwhelming burden. You may struggle with extra dental and medical bills, face problems with physical functions like eating, and experience pain, fear, and anger. 

If you or someone you love has suffered harm and you suspect dental malpractice is the cause, reach out to the experienced Detroit dental injury attorneys at Sommers Schwartz today. Call us at (800) 783-0989 for a free and confidential consultation.

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