Dental Malpractice Insurance and Litigation
Dental Malpractice Lawsuits: A Question of Integrity
When a dentist is sued, it’s not just the dentist’s skills that come into question, it’s also the dentist’s honesty and integrity.
In the infamous case of Dr. Sherri Worth, the “Celebrity Dentist” who was sued for doing a poor job on a patient’s crowns, Dr. Worth’s credibility was as much of a focus of her case as were her skills.
Dr. Worth had a roster of celebrity clients, her work was featured in People Magazine and Cosmopolitan and she had done work on patients for the TV shows, “The Swan” and “Nip/Tuck.”
The Arbitrator of Dr. Worth’s case stated that the patient’s chart had been re-written and that ten cavities the dentist had diagnosed were not verified with x-rays. Adding to her lack of credibility, was her explanation, when the patient’s chart was to be examined by a document expert, of why much of the patient’s chart had been lost or destroyed. Dr. Worth said that she accidentally spilled Diet Coke on every page that was to be examined by the expert.
Dr. Worth was ordered to pay the patient $641,542.
Good Communication May Avoid Litigation
A normal reaction to a dental malpractice lawsuit is to question your treatment of a patient and wonder if you could have done anything differently.
It’s more understandable if a patient has brought a malpractice suit because of a fractured jaw or extraction of the wrong teeth, than if a patient sues because of a minor problem, but minor problems can be amplified if they are not addressed.
Many claims that are brought by patients result from a breakdown of communication. Patients who feel they are not heard, or whose complaints are ignored by their dentist and staff, are more likely to initiate a lawsuit, than a patient whose complaints are addressed.
A patient who is dissatisfied and gets a refund or other resolution of their complaint, is less likely to sue than a patient who feels they have been snubbed. Even if that patient does not return to the practice, it’s still better than having a claim made against you and having to go through the process of a dental malpractice lawsuit.
Patients who feel they are not heard, or whose complaints are ignored by their dentist and staff, are more likely to initiate a lawsuit, than a patient whose complaints are addressed.
Dr. Worth’s case is an interesting study, not just because she is such a high profile dentist, but also because she is a woman. A very low percentage of female dentists are named in litigation. This may be because women have better communication skills than men and spend more time explaining procedures, options and possible complications to their patients.
Not only is good communication between a dentist and patient important, but good communication between a dentist and staff is equally important.
If a patient, or a member of the patient’s family, calls to complain or to ask for medical records, the dentist should be notified and it should be the dentist, not just the staff, who follows-up a complaint.
Of course, it’s not always possible to avoid being named in a lawsuit, but it is possible to mitigate the damage and stress that having a claim made against you can cause.
Even if a claim made against you is unfounded, it still has to be addressed. Having Dental Malpractice Insurance provides you with a team of experts who work for you, so that you can continue to care for your patients with least disruption of your business and personal life.
We have been helping Dental Professionals protect their livelihoods since 1999. Our staff can help you find Dental Malpractice Insurance that fits your needs and is affordable.
Courtney Perkes Celebrity dentist loses malpractice case http://www.ocregister.com/articles/worth-356376-valdez-documents.html
Crystal Baxter, DMD, MDS A Review of Dental Negligence http://www.dentistryiq.com/articles/wdj/print/volume-2/issue-8/you-and-your-practice/a-review-of-dental-negligence.html
Daniel L. Orr Dentistry http://www.ablminc.org/Model_Curriculum_LMME_2010/BOOK_MedMal%20Survival%20Handbook_2007/Ch43-A04438.pdf