By: Kelley J. Johnson, Attorney
As a malpractice attorney, I receive many calls from potential victims of dental malpractice. As I explained in Part I, unfortunately, dental malpractice cases are tough because they are expensive to bring and can take years to resolve – just as a medical malpractice case. This means that dental injuries that are not permanent and are not substantial may not be enough to have an attorney bring a case on your behalf. If, however, you do not have a permanent injury or if you do not have a significant injury, and you cannot find an attorney to represent you, don’t give up – there are still other things you can personally do.
Working through your problem with the dentist
The first option is to try to work out your dispute directly with your dental provider. In most cases, the dental provider will want to makes things right with his or her patient and will appreciate that you came to him or her directly. Before you have this contact with your dental provider, be prepared to discuss the details of your case, the dollar amount that you believe is at issue, and the resolution that will make you happy. You might want the dental provider to fix your problem (if that is a possibility) or you may just want your money back. Another possible solution is to ask your dental provider to pay for another provider to fix the problem. It’s important to be prepared with your thoughts before you meet with him or her and to stay professional and composed during the meeting.
If you aren’t successful working directly with your dentist
If you are not comfortable discussing your dispute with the dental provider or if you can’t resolve your dispute with your dental provider, you can file a complaint with the Indiana Dental Association. The Indiana Dental Association (IDA) is a non-profit organization that serves over 83 percent of Indiana’s practicing dentists. While the mission of the IDA is to serve dentists, the IDA also promotes professionalism and has public resources. One of these public resources is a peer review process to consider quality of care issues a patient might have. You will need a copy of your dental chart, a description of the dispute and a suggested resolution. The forms for this peer review process can be found here. Once you fill out and submit your forms, the forms are sent to a local district dental society for consideration by a panel of dentists. A mediation-trained dentist contacts you and the dental provider and attempts to help the parties reach a mutually satisfactory resolution. If mediation is not successful, the case proceeds to a committee hearing where a panel of dentists will review the case and make a recommendation for a resolution. It is important to note that this process is non-binding. This means that if you are not happy with the resolution, you do not have to accept it.
Remember, there is a statute of limitations to file a dental malpractice claim. In Indiana, that statute of limitations ends two years after the date of malpractice. If the two year date of your malpractice passes, you may have waived your rights to bring a case. If you believe you have a possible dental malpractice, contact a medical malpractice attorney that specializes in dental malpractice as soon as you can.