Dental Malpractice Law in Maryland
When talking about malpractice and medicine, the first defendants that come to mind are probably not dentists. Considering how they are using power tools inside our mouths, however, it is not surprising many dental malpractice lawsuits are brought for some extensive injuries. So what are some of the medical consequences of dental malpractice, and what is the relevant dental malpractice law in Maryland for those injured?
While we do not necessarily think of going to the dentist as a routine part of life that is not particularly dangerous, there are certainly potential consequences that many would not think of. Although our smile is very important to us, the errors made in a dentist’s office can go far beyond having an effect on our appearance.
Many of these errors are similar to what we see in hospitals, just localized to the practice of dentistry. For example, whereas hospitals may operate on the wrong arm or do an unnecessary amputation, dentists may extract the wrong tooth, unnecessarily extract a tooth or unnecessarily extract multiple teeth. Some mistakes, however, are almost identical to those in hospitals. This includes errors in anesthesia and errors causing infections after oral surgery like using contaminated tools.
One of the more severe injuries that most do not consider when going to a dentist is nerve damage. If nerves are damaged during dental work, it can cause a broad number of symptoms. This can include affecting a patient’s ability to taste or smell; numbness in the tongue, jaw, chin and lips; severe pain or burning sensations; drooling; speech impairment or even facial paralysis. In addition to the pain suffered from these injuries, some of the more severe conditions like partial face paralysis can be a life-altering: relationships, personal image and even the ability to get and keep a job can be drastically affected.
“If a patient is injured by a dentist, the malpractice law against the dentist will be very much like the malpractice law against any other type of doctor,” said Miguel Palmeiro of the Law Offices of Miguel Palmeiro. “First, we will have to prove negligence. To do this, we will need to prove that the standard of care exercised by the dentist was below the standards that the dental profession now practice; which is to say, that the dentist was negligent. Then, we must prove that the injury was a result of this the dentist acting negligently.”
“Often, this will require expert witnesses,” continued Miguel. “Expert witnesses are experts, in this case typically other dentists, who have specialized knowledge and will testify about the standards of care and severity of the injury suffered. This will help us to establish a standard that the dentist fell below that will allow a court to find a dentist negligent, and provide additional context for the harms suffered.”
Once the case is won, then there are the damages to consider. Damages are money paid out as a compensation for an injury, such as nerve damage during oral surgery. This will include compensatory payments for pain and suffering (which can be very broadly defined), lost wages, even punitive damages if the negligent actions were considered particularly bad (often termed as “wanton”).
“The dentist’s office is just one more place where things can go wrong, sometimes very wrong, with one’s health due to the mistakes of another,” said Miguel. “When things go wrong, we fight to make them right. Most law firms, like ours, offer a free consultation nowadays. If you have been injured in a dentist’s chair or elsewhere, please feel free to come by: it costs nothing but your time, and even a brief conversation with an expert in the relevant field of law can offer a lot of clarity in a complicated process.”