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If I were to pursue legal action what are my options? Do I have a case?

Hayward, CA |

I had dental work done in March of this year (deep cleaning for my gums). Because they had to go deep into my gums, anesthetics were used to numb the right side of my mouth. When the work was done I was told to give it a few hours and everything would return to normal. However, half of my tongue remains in a deaden state ever since. The dental office sent me to an oral surgeon and that turned out to be of no help. This has caused me many issues, such as not being able to enjoy my food, sense things that are hot/cold, and I'm feeling a slight pull from under my tongue every time it moves. At this point, I'd like to find out if I can pursue any legal action and if so, what are my options?

Attorney Answers 5

  1. The short answer is: if the dental office fell below the reasonable professional standard of care (that is, what a reasonable dentist should do), then you would likely be entitled to some compensation so long as you have suffered damages. If you have long-lasting damage to your tongue, it would seem as though you do have damages.

    Your best option would be to speak with a lawyer who can outline what your options would be going forward. You may be successful filing a claim against the dentist's malpractice insurance carrier, or you may be better off filing a lawsuit against the dentist.

  2. Consult with a dental malpractice attorney. It is definitely worth checking into.

  3. I am not licensed in CA but the answer to your question is dependent upon the cause of your condition. Hitting a nerve during administration of the anesthetic is a risk of the procedure even when performed appropriately. However, the administration could also have been performed below the standard of care. Call a local lawyer who handles dental claims and describe the procedure and allow them to obtain your records.

  4. Dental malpractice can be addressed in multiple legal processes and the consumer is not required to elect among the available processes nor to limit efforts for redress and restitution to a single forum. So, in addition to a potential claim or lawsuit for professional malpractice, you may want to consider acting on your right to file a formal complaint with the Dental Board of California. The Board can investigate, obtain a full statement and all records from the dentist, and make a determination as to whether the dentist breached professional standards. That can be a useful finding if you intend to go forward with a malpractice claim. The Dental Board can also require restitution by the dentist if the Board determines that the dentist acted improperly.

    However, the Dental Board's processes are often slow and your complaint to DBC will not stop your time limits for filing a legal case from running. Stay on top of your deadline for filing a complaint in court.

    You should also check your contract for dental services. It is not unlikely that you agreed to arbitrate rather than sue regarding any dispute or claim. Courts are increasingly favorable and formalistic in enforcing consumers' agreements to arbitrate, even where the consumer was not in an equal bargaining position with the service provider and even where the consumer was not specifically alert to the fact or meaning of the arbitration agreement. But an arbitration agreement will not affect your right to complain to the Dental Board, and will not prevent the Board from making or enforcing any remedies it contends are appropriate, including an order for restitution.

    Michael Claessens, License Advocates Law Group

  5. Only a tiny handful of lawyers handle these cases, so Google "dental malpractice lawyer"

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