There's truly nothing worse than going to the dentist and getting hurt worse than you expected, or even worse than you could ever imagine. Unfortunately, this happens all too often, and it's often due to the dentist's negligent actions or inactions. When you find yourself in a situation where you've suffered permanent damage or lost a loved one due to dental negligence, you may need to reach out to a Greenville dental malpractice lawyer.
Our law firm handles dental malpractice cases in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, and we are happy to give you a free consultation. We have extensive experience handling dental malpractice cases of all types, and our dental malpractice lawyers are here to help. All you have to do is call us at (843) 638-6590 and schedule a consultation with a dental malpractice attorney at our office, and we're happy to talk to you and answer any questions you may have for us.
Now, in this article, we're going to dive into dental malpractice in South Carolina and talk about your rights as a victim of dental malpractice. We'll cover the basics and even go into a little detail so that you can be better informed moving forward. So, let's get right into it.
Types of Dental Malpractice Cases in Greenville, South Carolina
When we're talking about dental malpractice lawsuits in South Carolina, what are we talking about? Well, there are a number of different types of dental malpractice cases that are viable in South Carolina. In other words, not every type of dental negligence is going to be worth pursuing because sometimes the expert witness will cost much more than the claim is worth.
Thus, dental malpractice cases that are viable and can result in a recovery of money for the claimant (not just the expert witnesses) will generally fall into a few common categories where folks suffer very serious damage. Dental malpractice includes cases that commonly involve one the following issues:
Dental treatment may require general anesthesia, and errors with anesthesia for dental procedures can lead to death. Unfortunately, this is not at all uncommon. We see these types of cases more in Florida because there are many more people in Florida, but these cases happen in South Carolina.
Often, the issue arises because the dentist fails to review the patient's medical history and administers types of drugs or doses of drugs the patient should never receive. Other times, the dentist or the nurse anesthetist improperly monitors the patient. Regardless of exact negligent act or omission, these anesthesia errors often lead to a wrongful death case based on dental malpractice.
People often seek legal services from a medical malpractice attorney when they find out their loved one suffered a tragic death in a dental chair. This should never happen to the patient of a dental care provider, and our malpractice attorneys see these types of issues far too often. It's absolutely heartbreaking.
Although people understand, to some degree, that horrible things can happen out on the road, nobody expects to lose a loved one to a dental procedure gone wrong. It's a shock, and they often need a medical malpractice lawyer to help them make sense of it all and seek justice for their loved one. Additionally, they may have to file medical malpractice cases just to uncover what medical professionals or dental providers have done.
There are also errors in administering or prescribing drugs to patients that can lead to horrible complications or death. Some of the obvious drugs that might kill a patient include things like opioids or other drugs dentists prescribe for pain. Some of the less obvious drugs that shouldn't be prescribed are strong antibiotics. For example, stronger antibiotics, like clindamycin, might cause a patient to develop clostridioides difficile colitis (C-Diff) and die.
If your loved one received any prescription from a dentist and then suffered serious complications or died, you may consider reaching out to a Greenville dental malpractice lawyer to help you investigate the circumstances surrounding your loved one's death.
Permanent Nerve Injury
There are many ways a dental patient can suffer permanent nerve damage to the nerves of the face and tongue. The most common reason for strong and viable dental malpractice cases is damage to the inferior alveolar nerve (IAN), which runs through the middle of the lower jaw on the left and right side. Damage to the IAN will generally result in numbness in the lower lip, chin, gums and along the cheek near the jawline.
Another nerve injury can cause loss of sensation in the tongue. This occurs when the dentist damages the lingual nerve, which runs along the floor of the mouth. Often, nerve injury results from the dentist's failure to properly plan for a procedure; they were in too big a hurry.
There are many ways a patient can suffer injury to the nerve or permanent nerve damage. Stronger cases will typically involve a dentist placing a dental implant too deep into the patient's lower jaw and into the nerve. Sometimes, a dentist can be negligent in the extraction of a tooth, like a wisdom tooth, which can cause damage to the inferior alveolar nerve or the lingual nerve.
Failure to Diagnose Cancer
Another serious type of dental malpractice case in South Carolina is where a dentist fails to diagnose oral cancer or squamous cell carcinoma. If a patient has an x-ray taken and the dentist doesn't notice cancer that is visible on the x-ray, and then the cancer grows and gets worse as a result, the dentist may be on the hook for dental malpractice.
These cases are heartbreaking, and they often result in horrific damage or death. The key issue here is whether the dentist should have seen the cancer and failed to see it and get the patient to the right healthcare provider to treat it. Call our law offices for a free case evaluation. We serve the Greenville area and the rest of South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina.
Broken Jaw and Related Complications
Sometimes a dentist will break a patient's jaw while extracting a tooth, typically a wisdom tooth. This is bad enough. However, sometimes, the dentist may not notice the broken jaw or the dentist may fail to inform the patient about it. As a result, the patient can develop osteomyelitis in the fracture, which can be very serious and even life-threatening. These cases can result in the patient losing their jaw and needing extensive jaw reconstructive surgeries, which can be absolutely traumatic and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Wrong Tooth Procedures
While wrong tooth procedures don't often result in the types of severe injuries as some of the other issues discussed above may cause, wrong tooth procedures and wrong tooth extraction cases can be viable because of how blatantly negligent it is to pull the wrong tooth or perform a procedure on the wrong tooth. Depending on the situation, these types of cases can be the basis of viable dental malpractice claims.
Winning a Greenville, SC Dental Malpractice Lawsuit
So, what does it take to win a dental malpractice lawsuit in South Carolina? Well, similar to other types of South Carolina personal injury cases, you have to prove the 4 key elements of negligence to have a successful dental malpractice claim. The elements a plaintiff must prove are:
- Duty of Care: The dentist must have owed a duty of care to the patient, meaning that the patient was under the care of the defendant dentist. This element is easy to prove because a dentist owes his or her patients a duty of care. So, this element is often undisputed.
- Breach of the Standard of Care: The plaintiff must prove that the dentist breached the standard of care. In other words, the plaintiff needs to show that the dentist's treatment was negligent and fell below the level of dental care that is tolerated in the profession of dentistry. This element is established through the testimony of an expert witness who practices the type of dentistry at issue in the case.
- Damage to the Patient Claiming Injury: If you're not hurt, you don't have a good personal injury case. The plaintiff must establish that he or she suffered damages as a result of the negligent dental care, and these damages must be real and quantifiable. Additionally, as we've alluded to in this article, these damages must be high; otherwise, the case will cost more to litigate than it is ultimately worth.
- Causation: The patient-plaintiff must show that the dentist's breach of the standard of care--the dental negligence--was the direct and proximate cause of the patient's physical harm, illness, or combination thereof.
There you have it: duty, breach, causation, and damages. These elements form the foundation for establishing a dental malpractice case in South Carolina. Thus, you and your Greenville dental malpractice lawyer must be able to establish these elements for a successful claim.
How Much is a Dental Malpractice Case Worth in Greenville, SC?
Determining the value of a dental malpractice case in Greenville, South Carolina is not as simple as applying a calculated formula or an algorithm. Unfortunately, it's just not that easy. You and your Greenville dental malpractice lawyer will need to analyze the specific facts of your case to come up with a good estimate of value.
Each dental malpractice case is unique, with its own set of facts and circumstances that directly influence the claim's worth. Additionally, numerous factors come into play when estimating the value of a South Carolina dental malpractice case. For example, we might look at the following factors:
- The severity of the injury;
- Whether there is any lasting or permanent damage;
- How much it will cost to repair the damage;
- Whether the damage can be completely repaired;
- The injured person's financial losses;
- Available dental malpractice insurance coverage;
- The defendants involved;
- Prior medical malpractice claims against the dentist, endodontist, oral surgeon, or other healthcare provider;
- Prior complaints against the provider with the South Carolina Board of Dentistry.
Your Greenville dental malpractice lawyer can help you analyze these specific factors as they relate to your case so that you can present the strongest case possible and get maximum compensation for your claim.
Compensation Available in a Greenville, South Carolina Dental Malpractice Lawsuit
There are many different types of damages a person may be entitled to in a South Carolina personal injury case based on dental negligence. Familiarizing yourself with these various types of damages can help you to be sure you're accounting for all your losses. Every little bit can help you to make a stronger case to the insurance company for how much money you should be paid.
The different types of damages one may be entitled to when pursing a medical malpractice or dental malpractice claim in South Carolina include (1) Economic Damages, (2) Non-Economic Damages, and sometimes (3) Punitive Damages. Let's talk about each of these types of damages in greater detail below.
Economic damages in a medical malpractice case are those damages that are easily quantifiable and tangible. These can be though of as out-of-pocket losses and losses that have a receipt. Economic damages will almost always include medical bills and the cost of medical treatment. Additionally, economic damages include things like missed work and lost wages. Where someone dies as a result of a dental procedure gone wrong or anesthesia errors, economic damages would also include funeral and burial costs.
In South Carolina, your non-economic damages in a dental malpractice or medical malpractice case would include those damages that are intangible; they're not easy to add up. These are damages for things like pain and suffering and emotional distress. There may also be a claim for the injured person's spouse for loss of companionship and support, which is often called "loss of consortium."
South Carolina has "caps" on non-economic damages. This essentially means that you can't get compensation beyond a certain point. Specifically, South Carolina Statute 15-32-220 provides that non-economic damages in a dental malpractice case are capped at $350,000 against a single dentist or dental medical provider. If multiple dentists or dental treaters are involved and contribute to the claimant's injuries, the total can't exceed $1,050,000.
Like the NOI laws and the pre-suit requirements for dental malpractice claims, these caps on damages make it clear that the laws are designed to protect doctors and dentists. This is a shame, and many people think it's unconstitutional. Often times, the insurance companies hide behind inflation to claim medical costs are going up because of lawsuits, but this is an obvious sham for anyone paying attention.
The damages we talked about above--economic damages and non-economic damages--are designed to "make an injured person whole." Punitive damages, on the other hand, exist to punish horrible behavior and to punish the worst types of negligence and recklessness.
Although it's uncommon for punitive damages to be awarded in a South Carolina dental malpractice claim, it's still possible. South Carolina Statute 15-32-530, an award of punitive damages is limited to the greater of $500,000, or three times the total of economic and non-economic damages.
For example, let's say there's a dental malpractice case, and the plaintiff is awarded $50,000 for medical bills and $50,000 for pain and suffering. Then, let's say the jury hates the dentist and awards $1,000,000 in punitive damages. The plaintiff can only get $500,000 of that $1,000,000 punitive damages award because $500,000 is the cap.
Filing a Notice of Intent for a Greenville, SC Dental Malpractice Claim
To file a medical malpractice lawsuit in South Carolina, the victim and their Greenville dental malpractice lawyer must provide the court and the individuals to be sued with a "Notice of Intent to File Suit." This is sometimes called a "Notice of Intent" or an "NOI." It's a required procedure for those seeking to recover compensation or bring legal action for dental malpractice in South Carolina.
This document should include the names of all medical care providers being sued and the claimant's reasons for seeking compensation. Additionally, the claimant must obtain an affidavit from a medical expert, detailing how the offending dentist committed negligence or breached the standard of care in dentistry. After filing the NOI, there is typically a 90 to 120-day period where the parties should attempt to reach an agreement before the case proceeds to court.
The reasoning behind this extra set of steps for dental malpractice and medical malpractice cases is ostensibly to reduce the number of frivolous claims and medical malpractice claims overall. However, it often just creates a barrier between injured people and justice.
This is especially true in dental malpractice cases, where the value of the claim is not extremely high, and thus the only person that may get paid is the expert witness when it's all said and done. For this reason, many injured people can't get justice because pursuing the claim costs more than the claim is worth. This is a serious problem in states like South Carolina and Florida, where the statutes are designed to protect insurance companies.
FAQs in Relation to Greenville Dental Malpractice Lawyer
Q1: What should I do if my dentist made a mistake and caused me to suffer permanent damage?
A1: If your dentist made a mistake leading to permanent damage, it's crucial that you seek immediate medical attention to address any urgent health concerns. Following this, document all relevant details about your treatment, including dates, procedures, and symptoms. Lastly, consult with a knowledgeable Greenville dental malpractice lawyer to understand your legal rights and explore potential avenues for compensation.
Q2: What is the definition of dental malpractice in South Carolina?
A2: In South Carolina, dental malpractice is legally defined as a situation where a dental professional fails to meet the standard of care, resulting in harm to the patient. This encompasses misdiagnosis, negligence during procedures, improper treatment, and failure to obtain informed consent. It's crucial to consult a Greenville dental malpractice lawyer to assess if a dental malpractice case can be pursued.
Q3: Can you sue a dentist for malpractice in Florida?
A3: Yes, you can sue a dentist for malpractice in Florida, similar to South Carolina: It requires demonstrating that the dentist breached their duty of care, leading to your injury. However, due to the complexity of malpractice cases, it's highly recommended to consult an experienced malpractice lawyer who can guide you through the process. The personal injury lawyers at our office are serving Greenville and the rest of South Carolina and can help you with your injuries resulting from a dentist's negligence.
Q4: How much compensation for dental negligence in Greenville, SC?
A4: Compensation for dental negligence in Greenville, SC, varies significantly based on the nature and severity of the harm suffered. Factors taken into account include the extent of injury, the cost of corrective treatment, and the impact on quality of life. For an accurate assessment of potential compensation, it's best to consult with an experienced Greenville dental malpractice lawyer.
Q5: What is the most common reason a dentist will have a malpractice lawsuit brought against them?
A5: The most common reason for a malpractice lawsuit against a dentist in South Carolina is typically due to negligence, such as botching an implant procedure and causing permanent nerve damage or failing to diagnose cancer. It's essential to consult a Greenville dental malpractice lawyer if you believe you have been a victim of dental malpractice.
Q6: What is the statute of limitations on dental malpractice in South Carolina?
A6: In South Carolina, the statute of limitations for dental malpractice is generally three years from the date of the injury or discovery of the injury. However, there are exceptions and complexities involved with the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases in South Carolina that might extend or shorten this period. For a precise understanding of how the statute of limitations applies to your specific South Carolina dental malpractice case, you should consult with a Greenville dental malpractice lawyer.
Q7: Can you sue for malpractice in South Carolina?
A7: Yes, you can sue for malpractice in South Carolina, including dental malpractice. It's crucial to have strong evidence of negligence and to prove that the negligence directly caused your injury or harm. For the best results in such cases, it's advisable to engage a Greenville dental malpractice lawyer, who can guide you through the complex legal process. The malpractice lawyers at our law firm are happy to give you a free consultation and talk with you about your specific situation.