Dental Malpractice Lawyer Near Me


Welcome to RiskBites, a series of podcasts produced exclusively for members of Dental Protection. In this edition, Dr. Annalene Weston, a dentolegal consultant at Dental Protection, and Dr. Kiran Keshwara, discuss dental negligence and when a patient can sue. Join them as they shed light on this important topic in dentistry.

Dental Malpractice Lawyer Near Me
Dental Malpractice Lawyer Near Me

What is Dental Negligence?

Negligence in dentistry refers to the failure to provide reasonable care to avoid causing harm or injury to a patient. It can involve acts or omissions that result in patient harm. For example, if a dentist mistakenly extracts the wrong tooth or fails to take necessary diagnostic tests before a procedure, it can be considered an act of negligence.

To prove negligence, the patient (plaintiff) must establish four key elements:

  1. The dentist (defendant) owed the patient a duty of care.
  2. The duty of care was breached through an act or omission.
  3. The patient suffered an injury or harm.
  4. The defendant’s act or omission caused the injury.

When Can a Patient Sue?

The ability to successfully sue depends on the patient’s ability to provide evidence that the dentist failed in their duty of care, resulting in injury. It is essential for the patient to demonstrate negligence with supporting evidence.

Proving negligence involves:

  1. Establishing the existence of a duty of care, which is usually easy to establish in dentistry.
  2. Demonstrating the act or omission on the part of the dentist.
  3. Providing evidence of the injury or harm suffered by the patient.
  4. Establishing a causal link between the alleged act or omission and the injury.

Protection Against Frivolous Claims

Patients may threaten to sue at any point, but successful lawsuits require evidence of negligence. Legislation in Australia discourages frivolous claims, and procedural steps must be followed. In Queensland, for example, the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act outlines the required forms, details, timelines, and steps for filing a claim. Mediation and settlement options are encouraged to resolve issues before resorting to court action.

What to Do if a Patient Threatens to Sue?

If a patient threatens to sue or you receive a letter or email from a lawyer, the first step is to contact Dental Protection. Inform them about the situation and provide all relevant patient records, x-rays, photos, and communication. Dental Protection’s team of dentolegal consultants, who also happen to be experienced dentists, will assess the case and guide you on how to manage it effectively.

Dental Protection will work closely with you and their panel lawyers, facilitating communication and ensuring the best possible outcome. Their dentolegal consultants will instruct the lawyers and handle the particulars of the case, protecting your interests while leveraging their clinical knowledge and experience.

What Happens After Reporting a Claim?

Once you have reported a claim to Dental Protection, it’s important to continue your usual practice and remain focused on providing quality care to your patients. Dental Protection will arrange meetings with lawyers, keeping you informed of any significant developments. They may call for your opinions and instructions during the process.

The duration of a case varies depending on its complexity. Some cases can be resolved quickly with a letter from lawyers, while others may take years due to their complexity. Throughout the process, Dental Protection aims to minimize your exposure and keep you updated on relevant developments without disrupting your day-to-day work.

The Reality of Dentists Getting Sued

Contrary to popular belief, dentists in Australia can face legal action. While studies have shown relatively few cases compared to other countries, the number of claims handled by Dental Protection exceeds those reported in research. The majority of claims are not publicly disclosed as they are often resolved through negotiation, settlement, or mediation.

Tips to Avoid Being Sued

While it is impossible to predict every outcome in dental treatment, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of complaints and lawsuits:

  • Foster strong communication with patients. Show genuine interest and build a personal connection with them.
  • Take the time to explain procedures, risks, and treatment options in simple terms, ensuring patients understand and provide informed consent.
  • Avoid rushing treatments and consultations, as patients can sense when they’re being hurried.
  • Focus on providing tried-and-tested treatments while staying updated with the latest advancements.
  • Maintain thorough record-keeping, including x-rays, photographs, and detailed patient conversations. Record any refusals of recommended tests or treatments.
  • Get a correct diagnosis, and don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion if necessary.
  • In case of an adverse event, contact Dental Protection promptly and ensure your records are up to date.

By following these practices, you can reduce the risk of complaints and protect yourself from potential legal issues.

Being sued as a dentist can be a daunting prospect, but with proper communication, evidence-based treatment, and a partnership with Dental Protection, you can navigate potential legal challenges successfully. Remember, Dental Protection is here to help you manage and resolve claims, allowing you to focus on providing safe and high-quality dental care to your patients.

To learn more about Dental Protection and how they support dentists, visit Make You Smile.