Everyone wants a beautiful smile and a healthy set of pearly whites. It’s why most people make trips to the dentist’s office every 4-6 months, trusting that their dentist will provide them with the best possible care.
Unfortunately, some dentists fail to meet the necessary standards for care and treatment due to negligence and end up injuring their patients.
If a dentist causes you irreversible disfigurement, damage, or some other harm due to his or her negligence, you may have a viable legal claim for compensation. When you file a dental malpractice lawsuit, you’re essentially suing your dentist or their company for injury or damages caused by illegal, negligent, or improper dental care.
Of course, proving that a dentist failed to offer you an acceptable standard of care isn’t always easy. You’re going to need to work with an experienced Florida malpractice attorney who can use his or her knowledge of the law to not only expose the dentist’s negligence or incompetence, but also see to it that you are duly compensated.
Elements of a Florida Dentist Malpractice Case
There are four elements that must be proven to win a dental malpractice case in Florida:
- The dentist owed you a duty of care
- He or she breached that duty
- Your injury occurred due to the breach of the dentist’s duty
- You suffered damages due to injury caused by the dentist’s breach of duty
Below, we’re going to look into each of these in more depth.
A Dentist’s Duty
Every dentist who is in active practice is legally bound to comply with the established standards of care when handling and treating patients. Standard care, in this case, is the level of care that would be administered by any other ordinary, prudent dentist (with a similar educational background, and from the same geographical location) under similar circumstances.
Breach of a Dentist’s Duty
A breach of duty occurs when the dentist fails to provide care that’s in line with the local standards of competent dental care. However, it’s vital to know that dental medicine isn’t an exact science. Because of this, unfortunate, inevitable, or unsuccessful results do not always constitute a breach of duty.
You will need a skilled Florida malpractice attorney on your side to prove that the dentist clearly breached their duty of care towards you or your loved one. Your legal team may even have to bring in trained medical and dental experts to testify.
In proving dental malpractice, you will need to demonstrate to the court how the actions of the dentists fell short of meeting the appropriate standards of care in your case.
Causation of Injury Due to Breach of the Dentist’s Duty
For a dental malpractice suit to stand, you must prove that you suffered injuries due to the direct (or, in some cases, indirect) result of a dentist’s breach of duty.
A causal relationship must, therefore, be established between the injuries you claim to have sustained and the dentist’s breach. In so doing, you prove to the court that your injuries wouldn’t have occurred were it not for the dentist’s actions.
Examples of injuries that may constitute a breach of a dentist’s duty of care include:
- Disfigurement of the teeth, mouth, or face
- Nerve damage
- Tooth damage due to a botched root canal
- Chronic, debilitating pain after a dental procedure
- Erroneous extraction of a healthy tooth
- Missing an important diagnosis such as oral cancer or gum disease
- A failed bridge or crown procedure
- Severe infection following a dental procedure
- Anesthesia injury
- Exposure to diseases like HIV/AIDS due to negligence
Damages Suffered Due to Injury Caused by the Dentist’s Breach of Duty
The final element that one must prove to win a dental malpractice case is damages. You must detail to the court what damages you have incurred in addition to or as a result of the injury caused by the dentist’s breach of duty.
Such damages may include:
- Lost earnings (e.g., due to time spent off work while recovering or getting further treatment)
- Financial costs incurred when getting additional treatment to rectify the dentist’s mistake
- Psychological and emotional trauma, such as embarrassment due to a ruined smile caused by an orthodontist’s negligence
Dental malpractice damages can be quantified. Some of the factors that might be put into consideration when calculating such damages include:
- The severity of the dental error and resulting injury
- Whether the injury is reversible or irreversible
- The degree of physical pain experienced by the patient
- Whether the injury causes disability (for instance, by altering the way a person speaks or chews)
- Whether the injury affects the person’s livelihood (e.g., by affecting a musician’s ability to sing)
- Whether pre-existing conditions aggravated the injury
- Comparisons with similar malpractice cases in the past
- The background of the dental professional or dentist being held liable
Florida Dental Malpractice Cases are Complex, But They Can Be Won
As you can see, several crucial variables will determine the outcome of a dental malpractice case in Florida. To win such a case, there’s got to be impeccable representation from your legal counsel.
If you feel that you have been a victim of dental malpractice, you should begin by speaking to an attorney who has extensive knowledge and experience in these types of cases. He or she will be able to look at the facts of your case and let you know whether they believe it is worth pursuing.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.