So I'm filing a malpractice lawsuit. What do I need to know?

I see a lawyer at 10am on Monday morning.

The bare-bones version is this:

I had over $10,000 worth of dental work done last year at a “sedation dentist” (not my regular dentist) so that I could get it taken care of “at one time”… Well “at one time” turned into 4 months of horrible pain. He wouldn’t give me pain meds, claiming I was “faking” (turned out he’d left a root in my gums when he exracted one of my teeth, and it had gotten infected–that was just ONE of the reasons for the pain) with the end result being sort of roller-coaster looking teeth that have the texture of sandpaper and really weird shapes. Oh, and they still hurt. And now according to my regular dentist, almost all of that work needs to be redone. “Substandard at best” is how he described it after taking a full set of x-rays.

So now I’m faced with needing massive amounts of dental work AGAIN and I spent 4 months being phsyically tortured and insulted and humiliated by that other hack all for nothing.

Anything I need to watch out for or know heading into this thing? I have quite a detailed timeline thanks to my daily gripes in LiveJournal, and I have loads of photos from all stages of the process.

All you need to know is the name of a good malpractice attorney. Cooperate with your attorney, ask questions about what you don’t understand, and remember, when getting satisfaction from your dentist is like pulling teeth, don’t take the law into your own hands, you take 'em to court!

Know that it will take a long time before it gets to court. You will probably have the opportunity to settle, perhaps several times, so think about what your bottom line is. Things to think about include the cost of both the orignal work and any work needed to “fix” it (obviously), any time lost from work, compensation for loss of enjoyment of life–like if you didn’t take a vacation because you were in too much pain–and the old favorite–genearal pain and suffering (your lawyer may have more categories, it’s been a while since I did personal injury). Money is most likely the only thing you can get out of this in court, but talk to the lawyer about filing a complaint with the dental board (or whoever it is that has oversite on dentists)–you may not be able to get his license revoked, but if enough people file complaints, it may happen eventually.

As far as dealing with the attorney–he or she needs to discuss the fee schedule with you and should give it to you in writing for you to sign showing that you understand it. Don’t be afraid to ask dquestions–the lawyer’s job is to guide you through a process that he/she has experience with, and you don’t. Good luck and hope the repair work goes smoothly.

Try to get an attorney who will take it on contigency basis. They only get paid if you do.

Be prepared for a long, dirty fight. Doctors (dentists included) tend to protect themselves and each other. He may have the dental board on his side just because they don’t want to mess with it.

Good luck!

You need to get an attorney that specialzes in malpractice suits.

FWIW here a firm that specialzes in dental malpractice. The lawyers are also dentists.

http://www.dentalaw.com/

The lawywer I’ve found does specialize in malpractice, and has had 3 dental malpractice cases in the last year, all of which he won. He says mine sounds similar to those. He is taking it on contingency but I will have to pay expenses (which he explained to me as photocopies and maybe paying my current dentist for his time if we need a deposition.)

I should add this:

Unless this lawyer seems really horrible, I’m going to hire him. He checked out ok with my mom’s friends (she is a lawyer with lots of lawyer friends.)

So unless that happens, I’m not really looking for advice on finding a lawyer. I am more looking for any suggestions or advice that anyone may have who has had experience with filing a malpractice suit… what kind of things I can expect. Any mistakes anyone has made that I should be forewarned about, etc. Like should I not do that big interview with the Inquirer where I claim the dental work was really done by extra terrestrials?

Btw, the lawyer said that all three of the dental malpractice cases he has done in the last year settled, they didn’t go to court.

It’s really up to you if you want to settle or not; it can make the aggravation and misery go away, but will it do anything to get this guy to stop with his malpractice? That’s a decision you and your lawyer will have to make. I would agree with the recommendation to complain to the state dental board as well; since you have lots of evidence, you shouldn’t have any difficulty being taken seriously as a legitimate complainant.

Other than that, be prepared for it to take longer than you want and don’t keel over and die when you find out how much depositions cost – far more than you think it’s worth, I can assure you up front. And find out from your lawyer how much per page he’s going to charge you for photocopies, and everything else included in “expenses” – that can include costs of obtaining copies of records, telephone calls, expert witness fees, and anything else he might throw in. Presumably it will all be paid for out of the proceeds, whether from settlement or winning at trial, but in case it doesn’t, you want to have a good handle on what he calls expenses. If he’s charging you 20 cents a page for photocopies, you have every right to negotiate it downward. You don’t want to end up paying $40,000 in contingency fees and expenses for your lawyer to get you a $50,000 settlement!

He estimates that total expenses of the photocopying variety probably will never exceed $50

Hrm… I could see a possible problem, if you decline a settlement and end up losing the case. Maybe your lawyer would demand payment since you took the gamble and lost for both of you.