Taking a trip to the dentist can already be an uncomfortable affair for many. But what happens if your dentist makes a mistake during treatment that causes you harm? In such cases, you may be wondering if you can sue a negligent practitioner for dental malpractice.
Is My Dentist Required to Carry Malpractice Insurance?
In the state of California, dentists are not required to carry medical malpractice insurance. Since it is not mandatory, a dentist may opt not to purchase such insurance in an effort to save money, or because they simply don’t think they need it. This suggests that just because a dentist doesn’t have insurance, doesn’t mean they are untrustworthy. However, you still may want to seek treatment elsewhere if not. Here is what you need to know about dental malpractice insurance in California.
Can I Still Sue My Dentist Even If They Don't Have Malpractice Insurance?
Each year in the United States, over 15,000 medical malpractice lawsuits are filed—at least five percent of those suits are against dentists. Filing a lawsuit can help you recover any medical costs and other losses you suffered as the result of a dentist’s medical error.
If you discover a negligent dentist does not have insurance, this does not mean that you cannot sue them if they make a mistake. This just means that the dentist does not have medical malpractice insurance to fall back on when it comes to paying out a lawsuit.
Lawsuits against dentists tend to stem from one of the following:
- Anesthesia errors
- Failed treatments or procedures
- Failure to diagnose
- Failure to give a patient the information they need
- Failure to thoroughly document a patient’s record
- Failure to update a patient’s medical history
- Nerve damage
- Product liability
- Questionable professional advice
Will I Receive Less Compensation for My Injury If My Dentist Does Not Have Malpractice Insurance?
Medical malpractice insurance ensures that if a doctor is sued, their practice and their personal assets are protected. If your dentist does not carry medical malpractice insurance, how much you get depends on the dentist’s personal assets.
A few years ago, NBC Bay Area reported a story featuring a woman who discovered her dentist of 37 years had been performing “shoddy” work on her mouth for decades—she had no idea until seeking a second opinion after experiencing pain in her mouth. Her long-time dentist passed away just before the patient could file a lawsuit, but she sued him for compensation anyway—and won $137,415. However, she never got a single dollar of her winnings because the dentist had died without taking out malpractice insurance. In fact, 80% of medical malpractice lawsuits brought to court result in no payouts at all.
Should I Avoid Dentists Who Do Not Carry Malpractice Insurance?
That is up to you. Most dentists are competent and compassionate enough to provide their patients with the effective medical care they need and deserve. However, even the best dentists are only human, and accidents can happen at any time, so there is good reason to want to protect yourself just in case.
If you wouldn’t drive a car without auto insurance, would you trust a doctor practicing without coverage? If the answer is no, then ask your dentist upfront if they have medical malpractice insurance. If they don’t, you might feel more comfortable finding someone else who does.