Lessons from Medical Litigation of Dentists

Back in June of 2013, I discussed in the post Lessons from Medical litigation in oral surgery practice several lessons that can be learned upon exploring lawsuits occurring in an oral surgery setting.

An interesting post on the same topic but applied to dentists as a whole was just written earlier today in DrBicuspid, titled “When a dentist becomes the defendant,” by Meghan Guthman (October 7, 2013, source: http://www.drbicuspid.com/index.aspx?sec=sup&sub=pmt&pag=dis&ItemID=314397&wf=1660“) Apparently this article was already written in the American Student Dental Association in their summer 2013 issue and was just a reprint.

The article discusses some data gathered by Medical Protective which is a malpractice insurance company. Their data shows that the average payment to a plaintiff in a dental malpractice lawsuit is $65,000. Around 20% of their dental malpractice cases between 2003 and 2012 involved a tooth extraction with the average compensation to the patient reported at $48,600. A case study of an extraction related dental malpractice case is provided where a dentist failed to obtain adequate radiographs showing the entire tooth and it’s bulbous root.

The article provides a figure by Medical Protective which shows that dental implant malpractice cases have the highest payouts with the average compensation being over $70,000. Extractions have the second highest payouts of the categories used (extractions, root canal, implant, crown, others).

The article also includes some informative advice from Mario Catalano, DDS. She encourages dentists to put their patient’s interests first  and recommends new dentists build positive relationships with their patients.

I have previously explored dental malpractice issues with a focus on wisdom teeth extractions, see http://www.teethremoval.com/dental_malpractice.html. In a sample of 48 cases used in that article (at present) there was an average award to the patient of over $800,000. I was forced to do some cherry picking of data in this case as I don’t have access to the same amount of dental malpractice information as an insurer. However, the average award was much higher here than indicated by Medical Protective. Part of the issue could be that Medical Protective insurers primarily dentists and not oral surgeons and dentists don’t take on more risky and complicated extractions.

Nonetheless, the average patient award of over $800,000 from the cases on http://www.teethremoval.com/dental_malpractice.html is well under many of the non-economic damage caps in many U.S. states see http://www.teethremoval.com/legal_standpoint.html.

For more on the damage cap issue see for example, The War on Healthcare: Patients Who Hate Doctors.

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