Medical Malpractice Attorneys Discuss how Dentists can be Liable for Medical Negligence

John Fisher
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Stopping Medical Injustice

Often associated with medical malpractice is the general practitioner who misdiagnosed or untimely diagnosed a patient’s condition.  Surgeons who negligently performed procedures are also those types of practitioners who are thought to commit malpractice.

Experience medical malpractice attorneys, however, know that many types of practitioners may be liable for malpractice.  It could be a chiropractor, nurse, physician’s assistant, podiatrist, oncologist, anesthesiologists, and even dentists. 

In fact, most of us see dentists for medical care more often than we see other doctor’s, including primary physicians.  General oral cleaning is recommended at the passing of six month intervals.  During those routine checkups, x-rays are taken and additional care may be needed. 

Consider the following procedures; tooth extractions, root canals, fillings, placement of crowns, caps and bridges.  It is here that malpractice may arise through inadequate performance of the procedure itself, or through improper anesthesia administration, and also consider the possibility of failing to properly diagnose a condition. 

What can happen when these things go wrong?  Failing to timely diagnose a condition can lead to a worsening of the condition, additional pain, and even permanent damage that cannot be repaired.  Cavities can be negligently repaired causing nerve damage.  This damage causes extreme pain and could necessitate corrective procedures such as root canals; another very painful procedure.  This additional procedure would not have been necessary had the dentist not been negligent. 

Patients have been known to suffer from temporary or permanent nerve damage in the mouth, lips, tongue, chin, and gums.  Jaw disorders have developed.  Patients have lost the sense of taste.  Uncontrollable drooling from the mouth can occur.  Serious infections also arise.  In the most extreme cases, improperly administered anesthesia can cause cardiac arrest, brain damage, and even death.   

In the plainest terms, dentists owe their patients a duty to not cause them avoidable harm.  If a dentist fails to adhere to the standard of care due to patients, and that failure causes the patient injury, then the dentist may be liable for the patient’s damages. 

Without damages there can be no recovery and damages come in two main forms; compensatory damages and punitive damages.  Compensatory damages are the primary category in which plaintiff’s are reimbursed for medical costs, lost wages, permanent disabilities, lost earning potential, and the like.  

Punitive damages are rarely awarded to plaintiffs and judges are careful about instructing juries on their ability to assess punitive damages.  This is because civil courts were not meant to punish people; punishment is what criminal courts are typically for.  Civil courts are meant to place the plaintiff in a position that he/she would have been in had the malpractice not occurred.  Nonetheless, in circumstances where the dentist’s actions were unconscionable, reckless, wanton, and the like, juries may be allow to assess punitive damages in order to deter future conduct akin to what was alleged. 

But what do you think?  I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at jfisher@fishermalpracticelaw.com.  You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com

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