Atlanta Injury Lawyers Blog
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Unlike the medical professional, the dental profession in many states including Georgia, has a lack of oversight over those dental professionals who choose to conduct dental procedures for which they do not have the qualifications and skills to perform. Legally, any dentist can perform any dental procedure. The problem that arises however, is that some general dentists take this liberty too far. As an Atlanta dental malpractice attorney, I have been contacted by victims of dental malpractice who have suffered serious injuries under the following situation:

  • A general dentist attempting to install dental implants in the maxillary (upper jaw) piercing the sinus cavity and leading to serious infections that would not heal;
  • A general dentist attempting to extract a impacted wisdom tooth and damaging the inferior alveolar nerve in the process;
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According to a recent study, medical malpractice could be the third-leading cause of death in the United State after cancer and heart disease.

Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who led the research, said in an interview that the category includes everything from bad doctors to more systemic issues such as communication breakdowns when patients are handed off from one department to another. “It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care,” Makary said. Makary explained that he and co-author Michael Daniel, also from Johns Hopkins, conducted the analysis to shed more light on a problem that many hospitals and health-care facilities try to avoid talking about.

Respiratory disease, accidents, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, flu and pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide round out the leading causes of death in America. Interestingly, medical malpractice and accidents account for almost 400,000 deaths each year in the United State. To term these causes of death as “accidents” is a bit misleading, since many of these incidents are caused by the negligence of a third-party and should more accurately be termed wrongful death. In the case of medical error, the negligence is attributed to the doctor performing below the applicable standard of care which leads to death and should more aptly be termed medical malpractice. In the case of an accident, many times the incident is caused by the negligence of a third-party tortfeasor, which could be a careless automobile driver, negligent premises owner or a person who does something negligent which leads to the death of another.

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A lawsuit filed against the City for a breach of its duty to properly maintain a sidewalk has resolved for $300,000. In a one-person bike wreck, the plaintiff lost control of her bike due to an uneven portion of sidewalk which was allegedly not properly maintained by the City. The crash resulted in a broken hip and wrist and also aggravated an earlier back problem, all of which caused pain, suffering and lost wages. At the time of the accident, there was a lift of about 2 inches on one of the sections of sidewalk beneath a viaduct which the plaintiff hit while riding her bike and went over and suffered significant injuries. The uneven portion of sidewalk which allegedly led to the crash has since been repaired.

With few exceptions, cities such as the City of Atlanta are not liable under the traditional theory of negligence for defects in roads and sidewalks. However, a static defect, such as an uneven section of sidewalk can be deemed to be a nuisance.

O.C.G.A. § 41-1-1 defines a nuisance as “anything that causes hurt, inconvenience, or damage to another and the fact that the act done may be otherwise lawful shall not keep it from being a nuisance. Lawful acts become nuisances when they are conducted in a manner causing hurt, inconvenience, or damage to another.
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As this recent article detailing the death of a young child as a result of dental care shows, damages from dental malpractice can include serious injuries such as damage to the dental nerves, pain, numbness and even death.

After their 6-year-old son died following a dental procedure, a California couple went to the California Legislature, hoping a new law could prevent other families from experiencing similar tragedy. Unfortunately, what they learned is that, sometimes, the quest for truth is not what the state dental boards strive for. According to the article, in California, for example, the California Dental Association spent about $664,000 lobbying last year – more than the pharmaceutical industry trade group or the association for Hollywood movie studios.

As an Atlanta attorney who regularly handles dental malpractice claims, I have been interviewed on just how difficult it is to know what the Georgia Board of Dentistry is and is not doing when it comes to investigations. While it is hard to know just what the Georgia Board of Dentistry is up to, we do know that they rarely take action, and this is unfortunate because, as discussed above, dental malpractice can and often does lead to horrific injuries which in many cases are permanent.

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Medication errors in Georgia have been exploding in the last few years. One of the reasons, is that pharmacies, hospitals, doctors offices, and other medical providers are overworked and understaffed. The difficulties they face are compounded by the number of prescriptions that are filled each day. Many of these prescriptions are for drugs that, if mis-filled can cause dangerous side effects, including but not limited to permanent disability, blindness and even death.

Many of these prescription error cases could and should have been avoided by proper protocols in place at the pharmacy. Many pharmacists do not double-check the work of pharmacy technicians to ensure that the prescriptions are filled correctly with the correct medication, correct dosage, correct instructions and so on and so forth. Due to the potentially lethal consequences of a prescription errors, there is no excuse for filling a prescription with the wrong medication or with the wrong dose with the wrong instructions are for the wrong patient or any of the other plethora of prescription areas that we see on a regular basis.

Patients who receive these medications should be vigilant in making sure that number one number one medication that you received from the pharmacy is supposed to be yours, that it is in fact the drug that it says it is on the packaging both on the paper packaging that the pill bottle is in and also on the pill bottle itself, and that the dosages are correct as you know them to be as prescribed by your doctor. While many people might question why they have to be so vigilant, the answer is that if you take the drug as a result of a prescription error, you run the risk of seriously harming your health. And, while you do have the ability to seek compensation for the injuries caused by taking the wrong drug or in the wrong doses because of the prescription error, this would be of little relief if the drug causes a permanent disability or death. In fact, most prescription areas are harmless and did not result in debilitating injuries. However the prescription errors that do result in harm are often catastrophic and life-changing. Prescription errors often result in serious injuries such as brain damage, loss of vision which many times is permanent, heart problems, blood pressure issues, severe allergic reactions which manifest themselves many times with permanent injuries to your skin, eyes and other organs of the body.

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As an Atlanta dental malpractice lawyer, I am well aware of a number of dental injuries that clients suffer due to improperly performed root canals, as well as from other dental procedures that are performed below the standard of care. Some of the leading dental injuries related to root canals are abscesses, infections, perforation of the sinuses, and facial nerve injuries.

I recently read an article which discusses a possible link between root canals and cancer. Interestingly, the article discusses how, even if the root canal is done correctly and all of the FDA approved materials are used, there could be a link between having the root canal and contracting cancer. While this makes for interesting reading, I have not seen any credible evidence to support this conclusion, and the American Dental Association (“ADA”) and other dental organizations have not, to my knowledge found this type of causal link.

However, with this being said, I still believe in being careful and only undergoing a root canal if it is absolutely necessary to save your tooth. The reason? The many dental injuries that occur when a root canal is not performed properly. As discussed above, many clients suffer from injuries that are caused by improper root canals. Some injuries occur when the dentist drills past the end of the root canal when cleaning the roots before filling them. In the upper maxillary teeth, this often results in a perforation of the sinus, communication between the mouth and the sinus, and infection. In the lower mandibular teeth, this can result in an injury to the mandibular nerves that run below the lower teeth and which run especially close to the roots of the molars. This type of injury is often very serious, as the resulting nerve damage causes loss of sensation and innervation to the chin, lip and jaw area. Sometimes, this numbness is combined with pain, which can be especially debilitating.

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The common law rule in Georgia does support the traditional theory of liability, i.e., the first bite rule, in determining an owner’s responsibility for a dog bite attack. This common law rule has been codified in Georgia at O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7, which states: A person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and, who, by careless management or by allowing the animal to go at liberty, causes injury to another person who does not provoke the injury by his own act may be liable in damages to the person so injured.

Despite this statute being known as the first bite rule, it is not necessary in Georgia to prove that the dog has bitten before in order to for the owner to be liable. Instead, the plaintiff must show that the dog has demonstrated a propensity to bite in the past that caused the injury in the present case. In other words, as long as there is an incident or incidents in the past that would put a prudent owner on notice to anticipate that the dog would bite or attack persons (as opposed to other animals, which would not be sufficient notice to hold the dog owner liable for the attack), the owner is liable for the damages caused by the dog.

Recent decisions have shown that the Georgia courts are replacing the one bite rule with legal theory that the owner of a dog must act reasonably to protect the public from his dog if the owner knows or has reason to know of the dogs vicious propensity to bite. Importantly, whether the owner knew or had reason to know of the prior acts is usually a question for the jury at trial rather than a question of law for the judge. This newer standard is in line with other jurisdiction and makes good legal sense.

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As an Atlanta dental malpractice attorney, I am often approached by potential clients who have sustained nerve injuries after a dental procedure.  The most common dental procedures that result in nerve injuries are root canals, dental implants and molar extractions (especially wisdom tooth extractions). Of these, the majority of serious dental nerve injuries result from work on the mandibular (bottom of the jaw) teeth. This is because the inferior alveolar nerve and the lingual nerve run very close to these bottom teeth and tongue and can be damaged if the dentist commits malpractice when performing any of these dental procedures.

Less often, a nerve injury can occur in the upper region of the face when the dentist attempts to perform a nerve block using a local anesthetic instead of trying to numb the area being worked on via an infiltration injection just above the tooth. The nerve can be injured either by a needle stick mechanical injury or by the local anesthetic chemically damaging the nerve. There is literature to support that post marketing studies conducted by the manufacturer of a 4% local anesthetic solution have indicated an increased risk of nerve injury secondary to the administration of 4% local anesthetic solutions when administered by nerve block in the mandible.

If you have sustained an injury from a dental procedure, and would like to discuss your case in complete confidence, contact Robert J. Fleming at (404) 923-7497 for a free dental malpractice case evaluation or contact us online.

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The role of Dental Assistants is governed by the Official Code of Georgia. It has expanded over time and, now, dental assistants can do all of the following while they are actively assisting dentists in a dental office:

  1. Apply desensitizing agents to root surfaces of teeth and prepared the surfaces of teeth prior to cementation of temporary restorations and crowns, bridges, or inlays.
  2. Place cavity liner, base or varnish over unexposed pulp.
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CVS, Walmart and Rite Aid account for the vast majority of prescriptions filled in the U.S. Not surprisingly, these pharmacies are involved in the majority of prescription errors as well. Doctors are writing and dictating prescriptions in fast-paced and hectic environments such as in hospitals, dental offices, emergency room, urgent care centers, medical clinics, dental clinics and doctors’ offices. Once these prescriptions are sent to the pharmacy to be filled, the pharmacist , in order to comply with the standard of care for pharmacists, must check to make sure that the prescription itself is accurate. Then, once it is filled, the pharmacist must ensure that the prescription, as filled, is accurate and correct. Finally, the pharmacist must make sure that the properly prescribed prescription should be dispensed to the patient or whether there is an alert or other reason why it should not be dispensed. In a busy retail environment (such as at CVS, Walmart, Rite Aid, Target, Publix, Kroger, etc.) this is not always done and prescription errors occur. The reason that this compliance with the standard of care for pharmacists is so critical is that a mis-filled prescription, or a medication filled in the wrong dosage, or a medication filled with the correct dosage but with the wrong instructions, can potentially lead to serious injury and sometimes can even be fatal.

Failure to adhere to the standard of care amounts to negligence, or pharmacy malpractice. In order to prevail in a court of law, the Plaintiff in these types of cases must prove: (1) that there was a duty flowing from the pharmacist-patient relationship to comply with the standard of care and properly fill the prescription; (2) that this duty was breached when the pharmacist did not dispense the correct prescription; (3) that the breach of the standard of care caused the injuries that the Plaintiff is complaining of; and (4) that the damages that the Plaintiff is complaining about were a direct and proximate result of the malpractice. In most cases, the duty element of the case is clear, as the Plaintiff was a patient/customer of the pharmacist and received her prescription from the pharmacy. The more difficult issues presented when you file a lawsuit for pharmacy malpractice are in proving what the applicable standard of care was and that the pharmacist breached this duty. Similarly, the Plaintiff still must prove that the malpractice caused her injuries and in exactly which ways Plaintiff has suffered. Damages usually include past medical and hospital bills, past pain and suffering, future medical and hospital bills, past loss of earnings and future loss of earnings or a decreased ability to work and labor in the future due to the Plaintiff taking the wrong medication after the prescription error.

Prescription errors result in over 7,000 deaths every year. If you suspect that you, or a loved one, have been the victim of prescription error, feel free to contact Attorney Robert J. Fleming for a confidential and free case evaluation. Mr. Fleming can be reached directly by phone on (404) 923-7497.