Is a dentist who misses an “obvious” cavity on a radiograph responsible for the resulting damage?

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Is a dentist who misses an “obvious” cavity on a radiograph responsible for the resulting damage?

There had to be a root canal, crown and the tooth being permanently weakened by the root canal?

Asked on June 8, 2015 under Malpractice Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Medical / dental malpractice is negligence.  Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that a reasonable medical or dental practitioner in the community would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm).

But for the dentist missing the cavity on the x-ray, would the resulting damage to the tooth have occurred?  If the answer is no, which appears to be the case, actual causation which is a requirement of negligence has been established.  Were there any unforeseeable, intevening acts which would relieve the dentist of liability?  If the answer is no, which appears to be the case, the dentist is the proximate cause which is an element to establish negligence.

Prior to filing a lawsuit against the dentist for negligence (malpractice), it may be possible to settle the case with the dentist's malpractice insurance carrier.  It would be advisable to be examined by a second dentist, whose report will support your claim of malpractice.

Your claim filed with the first dentist's malpractice insurance carrier should include your dental bills, dental reports (especially from the second dentist) and if applicable, documentation of any wage loss.

Compensaton for the dental bills is straight reimbursement.  The dental reports will document the nature and extent of your condition and will be used to determine compensation for pain and suffering which is an amount in addition to the dental bills.  Compensation for wage loss is straight reimbursement.

If the case is settled with the first dentist's malpractice insurance carrier, NO lawsuit is filed.

If you are dissatisfied with settlement offers from the first dentist's malpractice insurance carrier, reject the settlement offers and file a lawsuit for negligence against the first dentist.

If the case is NOT settled with the first dentist's malpractice insurance carrier, your lawsuit for negligence must be filed prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter.


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