Insureon Blog

Malpractice Lawsuit Tips for Dentists

17. April 2014 08:32

Young blonde girl in dentist chair

Like other healthcare professionals, dentists must be vigilant about the types of situations that can lead to expensive malpractice lawsuits. When patients accuse dentists of “malpractice,” they are alleging that the dentist’s services or advice violated a professional standard of care. In other words, your work failed to meet reasonable expectations based on your professional training and experience. (Learn more about malpractice by reading “What is Malpractice (Professional Liability)?” on our blog.)

Unfortunately, malpractice lawsuits are not uncommon. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 16,397 tort cases were decided by a bench or jury trial in 2005, and 15 percent of those were medical practice cases. Another Bureau of Justice report concludes that roughly 5 percent of all medical malpractice trials involve dentists.

What’s worse? These numbers don’t account for all the cases that are dropped, dismissed, or settled out of court – all of which can still cost a small dental practice time and money. The median price tag for a dental malpractice judgment (according to the Bureau of Justice) is around $53,000 – which doesn’t include the cost of legal defense. But dropped and dismissed cases can still cost dentists between $2,000 and $5,000 (or more).

The solution? Stop medical malpractice lawsuits before they happen. Below we share some tips on how to do just that.

What Kinds of Disputes Can Lead to Dental Malpractice Claims?

As we mentioned earlier, dental malpractice claims make assertions about the quality of your work. It’s important to realize that many claims (sometimes referred to as “frivolous claims”) have absolutely nothing to do with your work. You don’t actually have to make a mistake or violate a standard of care in order to be sued for malpractice. Some people just want to watch the world burn.

That being said, it’s important to be aware of the common malpractice claims made against dentists. These include:

You can read more about what to expect when a patient files one of these claims by reading “Understanding Errors & Omissions (Malpractice) Lawsuits” on our blog.

Case Study: A Real-Life Dental Malpractice Lawsuit

In the 2006 Florida court case Johnson v.Swerdzewski, dentist Frank Swerdzewski, D.D.S, was found liable for dental malpractice. The plaintiff, Jon Johnson, went to Swerdzewski for a toothache caused by a chipped molar. When the dentist administered anesthesia, part of the injection needle broke off in Johnson’s gum tissue.

Swerdzewski couldn’t remove the needle and referred Johnson to a specialist. Two surgeries later, the needle was successfully removed. That’s when Johnson sued Swerdzewski for dental malpractice. The jury ultimately decided in favor of Johnson.

What Dentists Can Do to Prevent Malpractice Lawsuits

The best way to “win” your malpractice lawsuit is to stop them before they happen. Here are some tips that you can try in your office:

Despite all these precautions, it’s still a good idea for dentists to carry Malpractice Insurance (aka Professional Liability / Errors & Omissions Insurance). This coverage can help you find a malpractice lawyer and pay for the costs associated with a lawsuit (defense fees, court fees, settlements, and judgments).

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Allied Health Insurance | Errors & Omissions | Errors and Omissions Insurance | Malpractice Insurance | Risk Management | Small Business | Small Business Risk Management

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