Do you think that your dentist went above and beyond their scope of proper treatment for your dental issue, causing you unnecessary and unexpected harm? Has this harm has gone on to affect your overall well being and quality of life?
If so, you have most likely met the requirements to prove a dental malpractice case: standard of care, duty, causation, and damage.
What do you do now? How do you start to file a malpractice claim against your dentist?
A dental malpractice case can last many years, especially if it escalates to a trial. The majority of dental malpractice suits are settled out of court. For those that continue onto a trial, the average trial length is 3-5 years.
Steps in a Dental Malpractice Case
Have Merited Proof
The first step of a dental malpractice case is to be certain that your claim is valid and has merit. In some states an affidavit from a health care professional stating your case’s merit is required before you officially file a claim in court. In other states it is recommended to get a favorable ruling from your state’s board of dentistry.
The filing of the claim, (or plea) at your local court marks the official start of your case. The dentist will have 20-30 days to respond.
The “Discovery” Phase
The next phase of the law suit involves the exchange of evidence, documents and testimonies from witnesses. It will also include statements from the patient and from the dentist. This phase is often called “discovery.”
Specifically, the “discovery” phase will feature the patient’s dental records, treatment records, treatment costs, testimonies from the patient, dentist and other eye-witnesses. Besides the expert testimonies being taken, there will also be expert witnesses that review the patient’s dental records and financial harm the patient had suffered as a result of lack-luster, careless dental care.
The “discovery” phase is where the majority of the case’s time will be. This phase can take anywhere from days to months.
The “discovery” period will end in one of three ways: the court dismisses it, the case is settled out of court (the most common result) or it proceeds to trial.
Many dental malpractice cases don’t go to trial because neither the patient nor the dentist want to have the case drag out. Cases that go to trial also become expensive and the costs are usually significantly more than what the patient or doctor can or will want to afford.
It is in the best interest for dentists to acknowledge fault and pay for damages in a settlement outside of court. More of their time and financial resources can be salvaged this way. Patients who brought the lawsuit also benefit from an out of court settlement by avoiding astronomical court fees and many years of court hearings.
Only the most compelling cases will have a chance of winning in court. If one is not permanently injured from their dentist’s treatments, succumbed to injuries or infections caused by poor treatment or suffered significant medical bill costs.
There aren’t many steps involved in a dental malpractice suit, but the process can quickly get intensive and complex. If you’re considering filing a dental malpractice case against your dentist, it is worthwhile to hire a lawyer. A professional dental malpractice lawyer will have the experience and knowledge needed to make your case successful. The lawyers at Chianese & Reilly Law know the court system very well and have many years of experience with dental malpractice cases. Contact us today to talk to one of our lawyers.