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Atlanta Dental Malpractice — 25 Years of Experience and Counting

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Over the past 25 years, I have seen all types of dental malpractice situations. Most involved a procedure (root canal, dental implants, etc.) which create a dental nerve injury. While the advances in these procedures change over time, the need to perform them within the applicable standard of care does not.

Good, solid dental care certainly does not fit the one-size-fits-all description. Every care situation is different and the facts are what determine the outcome of many cases. The expression: the devil is in the details, certainly rings true in dental malpractice. And the details are often recorded in the patient’s chart so we can determine what took place, at least as far as what the notes say took place.

Unfortunately, many potential clients (and quite a few lawyers who don’t have the depth of experience with dental malpractice cases) conflate sloppy dentistry with dental malpractice. But, sloppy dentistry, while frustrating and while it can certainly cause much harm and frustration cannot support a lawsuit. However, dental malpractice, if committed by the treating dentist and resulting in sufficient injuries due to the malpractice, certainly can. The general standard of care for dental malpractice in Georgia is a national standard and if an expert bases his opinion on a local standard, his opinion can be excluded. Since this is the case, a standard of care expert needs no personal knowledge of the standard of care in the local community in which the malpractice occurred (such as Fulton County, DeKalb County, or Gwinnett County, or the City of Atlanta, for instance) to render an opinion of what the standard of care in the case is; and whether the applicable standard of care was violated by the dentist. What a particular dentist would have done under like and similar circumstances is also not dispostive on the issue of whether the standard of care was violated, although this type of testimony has become common to impeach experts who are being less than transparent when trying to defend a dentist who has clearly committed malpractice. In other words, the dental expert testifies that the way the procedure was performed met the standard of care, but admits under oath that he would not perform the procedure that way. In most cases, that is because performing the procedure the way the defendant did was below the standard of care and that deviation of the standard of care is what caused the injures that the Plaintiff is complaining of in the lawsuit.

Unfavorable results or injury (and even sometimes a catastrophic injury) after a procedure¬† do not necessarily lead to the inference of malpractice. But rather, the malpractice must be shown by the Plaintiff by proving the basic elements of such a case, i.e., duty, breach, causation and damages. In other words, if the bad outcome happens, and the Plaintiff can prove through competent evidence at trial that the injury resulted from the deviation from the standard of care applicable to the procedure performed, the Plaintiff should prevail at trial. Ultimately though, it is for the jury to decide whether the injuries complained of in the lawsuit were caused by the dentist’s negligence.

Robert J. Fleming is a partner in the law firm of Katz Wright & Fleming, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia and Decatur, Georgia. He is a personal injury attorney who has been handling wrongful death, dental malpractice, professional negligence, car accidents and premises injury cases for individuals and families who have been severely injured or died as a result of negligence since 1995. He practices in the metropolitan Atlanta area including the city of Decatur, Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, and Cobb counties in Georgia. If you or a family member has been seriously injured and would like to discuss your case in complete confidence, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online. We are here to help.

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