How to Prove Dental Malpractice

By David Burlison
Determining if a dentist was negligent is an important first step to proving a malpractice case.

Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

Sometimes a dentist or a doctor will make a mistake in treating a patient. A dentist or doctor who makes a mistake has committed malpractice. Many times a dental procedure by the dentist will be considered to have a bad result. However, not all bad results are considered malpractice. The law spells out what is considered malpractice, and every state has there own unique process for how to proceed against a negligent dentist. However, in the broadest terms, the definition of malpractice is uniform in all the states, and the first concern when considering pursuing a malpractice claim is always a matter of whether or not the dentist was negligent as defined by the law.

How To Prove Dental Malpractice

Discover evidence of malpractice.

Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

Discover proof to establish the dentist's negligence. Just because a dental procedure ends with a bad result does not mean it necessarily constitutes malpractice. The first step is to request the dental records of the dentist. All patients are entitled to a copy of their dentists' records. The dentist's records will outline the diagnosis, course of treatment and procedures performed. Any expert that will conclude that malpractice occurred will start with the dentist's records.

Assess the damages suffered

Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

Assess the plaintiff's damages. Damages for malpractice are usually awarded in a dollar amount to the plaintiff. A plaintiff should be awarded for all allowed damages related to the specific malpractice act. Those damages will be all out of pocket expenses related to the malpractice. This would include the medical cost to correct the damages incurred. There would also be subjective damages for pain and suffering. If the plaintiff lost time from work, then an amount for lost wages past and future should asserted.

File suit in a timely matter

Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

File the lawsuit in a timely manner in the right court. A malpractice lawsuit is too complex to file in a small claims court and should be filed in a court of record with unlimited jurisdiction. The specifics of the malpractice act should be spelled out in the complaint. Every state has a time limit to file a malpractice lawsuit. The time to file may be one year or it may be five years depending on the state where the malpractice occurred and where the lawsuit will be filed. For example, in Tennessee you have only one year to file a malpractice lawsuit. The limitation period begins to run when the prospective plaintiff knew or should have known of the malpractice. Most states have a statute of repose, and after a certain number of years any malpractice claim is barred regardless of lack of notice.

Find an expert that will attest to the malpractice

Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

Find an expert to testify against the dentist at fault. To prove any case involving medical or dental malpractice, another licensed dentist has to be retained to say the dentist committed malpractice. The other dentist, the plaintiff's expert, will have to testify that he has reviewed the medical file, considered the facts and examined the plaintiff. The expert must conclude that in his opinion the defendant dentist deviated from the acceptable standard of care in the community where the defendant dentist practiced dentistry. And the expert should be aware of the standard of care in the community at issue, as the standard in Hope, Arkansas, may be different than the standard of care in New York City.

About the Author

David Burlison practiced law for 25 years In Tennessee and Mississippi. He has traveled extensively throughout the world, and once lived and worked in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He has published numerous articles with Demand Studios, Ezine Articles, GoTo Articles and Hubpages. His publications have covered subjects dealing with law, travel and various social issues.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article