What to do if during what was supposed to be a routine root canal, my dentist broke a needle deep in my tooth?

I now have to go to a specialist. While he said he will pay for that, what are my options to either recoup money already paid, get balanced forgiven or more (such as pain and suffering)?

Asked on September 20, 2014 under Malpractice Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

First, your dentist would only be liable if he were negligent, or unreasonably careless, which he well have been; however, bear in mind that if he did everything right and it was not his fault that the needle broke (e.g. the needle was defective), the dentist is not liable (though possibly the manufacturer would be).

Second, if you don't like what the dentist is offering, you'd have to sue him to get more. However, bear in mind (1) that as stated above, it's not a given you'd win--you'd have to prove fault or negligence; and 2) malpractice cases are *expensive* to bring--you'd need to hire a dental medical expert (like another dentist) to examine you and provide a report and testimony. It's possible you could spend more on the case then you'd get (see below).

Third, in terms of what you might be entitled to:

a) You could  get the additional medical costs caused by the negligence (if there was negligence)--so what the dentist is offering to pay, which is the cost of the specialist. You can only get your out-of-pocket (not paid by insurance) costs.

b) You can't get back the cost of the procedure  the dentist did.

c) IF you suffer significant life impairment lasting for weeks or months (or longer) you may get pain and suffering; but without significant impairment of life lasting at least weeks, it's not worth trying to get this--you likely would not get anything for pain and sufferiing, or at most get a de minimis amount.


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