Confidential Settlement for Premises Liability Accident
Confidential Settlement for Motorcycle Wreck
$705,000 Verdict in Commission Dispute Case
Confidential Settlement in Golf Cart Injury
$1.9 Million Recovered in Pay Dispute
Confidential Settlement For Atlanta Chiropractic Malpractice
Confidential Settlement in Commission Pay Dispute
Confidential Settlement In Dental Malpractice Case
$3.25 Million For Alleged Fraud in Sale of Business
$5.5 Million Medical Malpractice Verdict
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Dental nerve damage can often be caused by dental treatment. Many kinds of treatment have reportedly caused dental nerve damage such as root canals and placement of dental implants in the lower jaw. Despite many types of proposed treatment and many claims of success, many victims of dental malpractice in Georgia have exhibited poor recovery after surgery is attempted to correct dental nerve damage.

After undergoing microneurosurgery, an injured dental patient’s quality of daily life activities may improve because of the resolution of numbness or pain in the tongue, lip, chip or face during movement.  Other areas of sensory perception which may improve after this type of corrective surgery are thermal perception (ability to feel hot or cold) and taste sensation.  Improvements in taste can include recoveries of sweet and salty tastes or recovery of the injured patient’s ability to taste sour things again. It is interesting to note, that even when some semblance of taste is recovered, the taste buds on the side of the tongue that the nerve was injured on are sometimes smaller and less prominent, and this  almost always permanent. It is also common that the subjective taste perception does not mimic an apparent regeneration of the nerve under some of the radiographic tests that are available for this purpose, such as a cone beam CT scan (3D CT), x-rays, MRI or MRN.

I regularly handle cases that involved nerve injuries that were caused by dental procedures. It has been my experience that most of these injuries are traumatic and severe. Due to the nature of the injury, the effects on the injured patient are certainly seen in pain and numbness in the area of the injury. However, many times the patient has far more reaching pain and numbness that cannot be adequately addressed by corrective surgery, pain drugs or therapy. In these cases, the patient’s injuries become debilitating and permanent. In these cases, the injury become much more than simply a physical pain or numbness and it can affect almost every aspect of the patient’s daily life. This can include, but is certainly not limited to, pain while brushing teeth; pain while eating; drooling; unbearable pain in the jaw, face and ear; tremendous anxiety; difficulty sleeping; not being able to work; sexual dysfunction; fear of getting future dental work done; and many other types of problems.

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One prominent nerve repair expert explains the need for quick action one a dental nerve injury is diagnosed: Peripheral nerve injuries requiring surgical intervention will have better results the earlier the nerve is repaired after injury. Therefore, repairs with or without grafting done immediately after the injury have better results, with progressively worsening results if done 3, 6, 9, or 12 months or longer after the injury. Wietholter et al reported best results for IAN (Inferior Alveolar Nerve) and LN (Lingual Nerve) repair if reconstruction was done within 3 weeks of the injury. Early repair circumvents major problems encountered with elapsed time such as Wallerian degeneration, atrophy, and fibrosis in the distal portion of the nerve. Atrophy creates a significant size match discrepancy between the nerve graft and either or both stumps. The time factor reflects the rate and extent of degeneration and atrophy of the distal fascicles prior to nerve repair. However, if the injury is primarily a traumatic neuroma without atrophy or degenerative neurologic changes in the distal portion of the nerve, the time factor may not be as important; that is, whether the repair is done at 3 weeks or 2 years may not make a difference in functional outcome.

However, an Atlanta dental malpractice lawyer who almost always has a number of active clients suffering from nerve injuries caused by root canals, dental implants and tooth extractions, I know what most dentists tell patients who have suffered from these injuries: “Your injury is temporary and it will get better. We need to keep an eye on it and wait. It could take up to two years for you to get better. We will monitor you and we simply have to wait, as there is nothing more to do.” Horrible advice that could possible cause you your right to sue if you wait too long.

In most cases, if you are injured by dental malpractice in Georgia, you have two years from the date of the alleged malpractice. Of course, like every rule, there are exceptions, but the are limited and the general rule, as stated above is what you, as a person who has a serious injury from a dental procedure, should proceed under. Also, if you have a serious injury from a dental procedure, you should hire a lawyer today. Why? Well, the first reason is that, in most cases, you should not follow the advice that dentists typically give patients who have suffered a dental nerve injury. Secondly, the deadlines that may apply to your case are quite complex and no one other than an experienced dental malpractice lawyer who regularly handles these types of cases in Georgia should be relied upon to provide you with legal advice. Finally, the sooner a competent lawyer is advising you, the sooner you have another trusted advisor in your camp who can help you make decisions that can save your health and make sure you protect all of your legal rights. In most cases, if you miss the statute of limitations (or the deadline for filing your lawsuit) your right to sue is lost forever.

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Our firm has had a lot of success recently handling slip and fall cases with catastrophic injuries. Most of these cases revolve around a defect in a walkway or path. This defect can be either in the design of the walkway or in the failure to keep the walkway safe and secure. One way to prove a defect is to rely on ASTM standards.

ASTM International is a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of voluntary consensus standards. ASTM standards are used around the world to improve product quality, enhance health and safety, strengthen market access and trade, and build consumer confidence. In the United States, they set a standard for what is considered safe.

In regards to walkway surfaces, ASTM standards are as follows:

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A recent article notes that over 60% of people fear going to the dentist. In fact, dentists are feared more than medical professionals such as neurologists and general surgeons. Perhaps the reason for the fear of the dentist arises from the number of dental malpractice cases in Georgia. As dental malpractice attorney in Georgia, I have seen a rise recently in the number of cases of dental malpractice related to the improper placement of dental implants in the lower jaw and improperly performed root canals procedures.

As the article points out, there are a number of ways that you can help alleviate the fear of dentists. The best way I know to eliminate that fear is to choose a dentist carefully. The best way: talk with friends and family and go to a dentist that they have been to before and can highly recommend. The worst way to pick a dentist in my opinion: go to one of the large dental chains such as Coast Dental, Aspen Dental, or Great Expressions. While the care at any of these large dental groups can be excellent, they are extremely large and you may not have the experience or outcome that you desire. The better course is to listen to people you trust and go to a dentist that comes highly recommended.

Another way to lessen the chance of a bad dental experience is to utilize a specialist. For instance, if you need a root canal, you might be better off with an endodontist than a general dentist. That is not to say that all general dentists are not able to perform root canals within the standard of care, it has just been my experience that the level of expertise with general dentists who perform root canals (especially difficult root canals with narrow canals, curved roots or calcified openings) varies greatly. Conversely, most endodontists have the necessary training, experience and tools in their office to competently perform even the most complex root canals.

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Many times, a claim for dental implant malpractice or root canal malpractice involving dental nerve injuries includes a claim for mental pain and anguish. Defendants in these cases typically try to obtain all of plaintiff’s medical and psychiatric records for the previous 10 years, or longer. This type of request was addressed in Brown v. Howard, 778 SE2d. 810 (Ga. App 2015). In holding that the plaintiff’s mental health records were not subject to the defendant “fishing expedition”, the Howard court reasoned as follows:

“Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action [.]” OCGA § 9–11–26(b)(1). Georgia law provides several privileges related to mental health, which, collectively, are referred to as the “mental health privilege.” State v. Herendeen,279 Ga. 323, 325, 613 S.E.2d 647 (2005). The components of the mental health privilege include

(5) Communications between psychiatrist and patient;

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To the surprise of many, a child can be put to sleep for a dental procedure by a dentist who does not have a medical degree. While this should not be a concern in and of itself, when you couple this with the fact that according to the American Dental Association, educational and training requirements to administer sedation and dental anesthesia in Georgia is governed by the Georgia Board of Dentistry, this creates an alarming and dangerous situation. As a Georgia lawyer who specializes in dental malpractice, including injuries caused by improper administration of anesthesia, I am concerned for the safety and well-being of our children in Georgia (as well as adults who receive general anesthesia when they undergo complicated dental procedures) and would hope someone other than the Georgia Board of Dentistry would oversee this area of dentistry.

While the anesthesia is reportedly administered by dentists with anesthesia training, in almost all cases involving complicated dental procedures such as root canals, dental implants or complicated extractions, the anesthesia is not administered by a medically trained (i.e., and M.D.) anesthesiologist. To make matters worse, dentist can perform sedation and anesthesia themselves without having a physician (anesthesiologist) or dental anesthesiologist present.

This is all concerning for adults, but the problem is exasperated when it comes to parents who bring their children to the dentist and are left in the dark as to what is happening in the exam room. Sedating children is much more complicate and potentially dangerous than sedating adults. There is a much smaller room for error with kids. While state dental boards require the dentist to qualify for a special anesthesia permit, there is no assurance that these dentists who are sedating our children are specially trained and qualified to sedate children — and parents need to know this.  There are no national standards for what the dental anesthesia permit requires, and some states do not require it at all.   And, the standards are determined by the American Dental Association, not by the ABA or by medical boards or even the two national boards for dental anesthesiology. Why this is so, is not immediately clear, but a national standard administered by the medical community seems to make sense.

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General dentists must comply with the standard of care for dentists under like or similar circumstances in Georgia and nationwide. When a dentist fails to comply with this standard of care and a serious injury or death results, a lawsuit for dental malpractice can be filed. A national dental practice, which touts itself as general dentistry for kids has been sued by a mother of a child-patient who died as a result of complications from a dental procedure, and an infection which was alleged to have not been treated properly. According to reports, the infection spread after a follow-up visit to the dentist and sadly took the fear year-old girl’s life.

Infections secondary to dental procedures, while not uncommon, rarely cause death. This is because most patients report back to the dentist and receive the proper treatment to get the infection under control and to make sure that the patient does not become toxic and the infection does not spread. Ludwig’s Angina is one type of dental infection that can cause death if not properly diagnosed and treated by dentists.The majority of cases of Ludwig’s angina are odontogenic in etiology, primarily resulting from infections of the second and third molars (wisdom teeth). In this scenario, the dental infection spreads to the throat and compromises the patient’s ability to breath and can, if not treated cause severe suffering, lack of oxygen to the brain, and even death. With progressive swelling of the soft tissues and elevation and posterior displacement of the tongue, the most life-threatening complication of Ludwig’s angina is airway obstruction. Prior to the development of antibiotics, mortality for Ludwig’s angina exceeded 50%

Even if the original dental procedure that caused the infection was performed within the standard of care, the dentist and the dental practice may be liable for failing to timely diagnose and treat Ludwig’s Angina and/or failing to refer the patient to a specialist in a timely manner.

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Many teenagers have their wisdom teeth removed. If the extractions are performed while the patient is still young, the procedure is less likely to lead to complications. Tragically, this was not the case according to reports, for the family of a 17 year-old who died from alleged anesthesia complications during a wisdom tooth extraction. The teen was under general anesthesia in the oral surgeon’s office when her heart rate dropped dramatically. Despite a call being placed to emergency 9-1-1 and CPR being administered before the paramedics could arrive, the teen died from a lack of oxygen to the brain caused by her heart failing.

In addition to paying the $2 million settlement, the oral surgeon who caused the death was temporarily suspended from practicing dentistry 6 weeks after the incident and disciplined by the state board of dentistry.

All medical providers, whether they be doctors, nurses, dentists or oral surgeons have a duty to administer anesthesia appropriately and to properly monitor the patient during and after the procedure to ensure there are no complications related to the anesthesia. If there are complications, the medical provider must comply with the standard of care and uncover the complication and treat it in an appropriate and timely manner. Failure to comply with the standard of care constitutes negligence and the practitioner is liable for all damages (up to and including death) that flow from the negligence.

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I recently took a call from a potential client who suffered what appears to be a lingual nerve injury after she received a dental implant in the lower jaw. While this is unusual, the fact that she received a nerve injury after the placement of a dental implant in the lower jaw is not as uncommon as one might believe. A recent study in the U.K. revealed that about 1% of dental implant procedures performed each year result in nerve injuries.

The number of dental implants installed in the U.S. and around the world is increasing at a rapid rate. Implants can replace lost teeth and are preferred over bridges and other dental devices because implants are permanently screwed into the jawbone and more readily mimic real teeth than a bridge or other device can. This allows the implant to promote a strong bone structure around it and the patient is much less likely to suffer from bone resorption (or bone loss around the area of the missing tooth) after the loss of a tooth when a dental implant is installed rather than a bridge.

However, with this added benefit comes added risk. If the dentist installing the implant does not comply with the standard of care when installing the implant post, dental nerve injury can result. If someone suffers a dental nerve injury from a dental implant, they often suffer from numbness and pain in the jaw, lips, mouth, gums, teeth and chin areas. Although it is less common, someone who suffers a dental implant nerve injury can also suffer from pain that radiates up from the lower jaw and up into the ear and head. While this type of injury is less common, it is almost always a much more serious and debilitating nerve injury and much more difficult to treat due to the transitory (moving) nature of the pain and symptoms. In addition, if the cause of this painful condition is not addressed quickly, the pain can be permanent and result in a significant negative impact in the quality of life. Many of these injured dental implant clients wind up with constant pain and discomfort for the rest of their life.

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According to a recent article in NPR news, a veteran has sued the VA hospital for malpractice related to the VA leaving a surgical scalpel in his stomach. While medical malpractice is not uncommon, leaving a surgical tool (in this case a four-inch scalpel used to cut tissue inside the body) is not common due to the hospital protocols and procedures that are now in place in almost all medical care facilities. However, in my opinion, the level of care at the VA hospitals is suspect, at best, and an error like this coming out of a VA institution does not surprise me.

While it is always difficult to get accurate numbers, it is estimated that there are almost 1,500 cases of foreign materials left in the body following surgical procedures in the U.S. Most of these cases, however, involve sponges, gloves or other devices (or more often pieces of materials) made out of pliable material. While a mishap like that is bad enough, leaving a scalpel in someone’s stomach after a surgery and then continuing to leave it in after they complain of stomach pain over the next 4 years is such and egregious act of malpractice, that, in my opinion as an Atlanta medical malpractice lawyer, it rises to the level of gross negligence.

Georgia courts define “gross negligence” as being “equivalent to the failure to exercise even a slight degree of care and the lack of the diligence that even careless men are accustomed to exercise. Said another way, the definition  for gross negligence provided by Georgia courts, and what a plaintiff in an Emergency Room medical malpractice case must prove in order to win a ER medical malpractice case in Georgia, a plaintiff must show by “clear and convincing evidence” that a physician failed to provide even a “slight degree” of medical care or that the physician’s medical care was less than “careless negligence.” These are high standards to prove (and not needed to prevail against the VA in a non-Emergency Room case), but something that is certainly capable of being proven with facts such as a surgical scalpel being left behind after surgery and not being found even while the patient complains of stomach pain after the surgery. Absolutely horrendous care and something that our veterans should not be subject to, for any reason.