California Dental Malpractice Statute of Limitations

Author: Nicki Malekadeli
Posted on: October 2, 2019

Dental malpractice is an unfortunate incident that can cause permanent damage to one’s teeth, pain and suffering, or result in wrongful death. This form of medical malpractice often come from the negligence of the oral healthcare provider involved. These acts of dental malpractice can come in the form of using unsterilized dental equipment or the accidental extraction of healthy teeth. While some may consider them as accidents, healthcare professionals can be held legally responsible for injuries of patients as a result of their deviation from their duty of care.

What is Dental Malpractice?

Dental malpractice or dental negligence is a subset of medical malpractice which describes the incident wherein the negligence of a dental professional caused a patient to sustain an injury or complication. These dental care providers can include dentists, oral surgeons, dental hygienists, or similar professionals who perform dental work. Dental practitioners also have the responsibility of performing or advising the best possible treatment and medical care to their patients. This also means that they should be transparent with the risks and side effects involved and can be held liable for any complications or safety issues that the patient might incur. Similar to what constitutes medical malpractice in California, a dental malpractice claim must have the following elements in order to be considered so:

  • Breach of duty – The healthcare provider is held responsible for any injury or damage sustained by a patient during treatment if the said provider did not uphold their sworn duty. A breach of duty implies that the negligent medical practitioner failed to do their job properly, causing further injury to the patient.
  • Causation – The plaintiff should present and prove a direct cause between the injuries that they acquired and the said breach of duty of the negligent party in question.
  • Damages due to injury – Aside from presenting a direct cause, the plaintiff should also prove that he or she experienced actual damages from medical malpractice. These damages can be either economic or non-economic, such as lost wages from losing the capacity to work or pain and suffering due to the injury sustained.

Additionally, having unfavorable outcomes from a procedure or medication does not automatically guarantee that there has been malpractice. One must prove that the dentist or dental professional in question deviated from his or her established standard of care.

Examples of Dental Malpractice

Professional negligence pertains to the negligent act or omission to act by a healthcare provider in doing their professional services, from administering proper diagnosis and medicine to performing medical procedures such as tooth extraction and root canals. These acts, or lack thereof, can cause significant personal injuries or even wrongful death to their patients. To further understand what dental malpractice is, here are a few specific examples of acts of dental malpractice:

  • Failing to diagnose, misdiagnosing, or having a delayed diagnosis of a dental disease
  • Improper extraction of teeth
  • Extracting or damaging healthy teeth
  • Causing temporary or permanent cosmetic damage to one’s teeth, jaws, lips, or face
  • Improper administration of anesthesia
  • Surgical errors that cause nerve or healthy tissue damage
  • Fracturing one’s teeth with dental instruments
  • Using unsterile tools that can lead to infection and other complications
  • Failing to treat an oral health condition appropriately

Statute of Limitations of Dental Malpractice Claims in California

The statute of limitations of dental malpractice cases in California takes into account two scenarios relating to the medical malpractice incident. Section 340.5 of the California Code of Procedure states that lawsuits related to alleged injuries caused by the negligence of a medical professional or healthcare provider must be filed either:

  • Within three years after the date when the injury occurred, or
  • Within one year after the victim discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the injury.

The victim must file his or her claims based on these conditions and whichever occurred first. Failing to file a lawsuit within the one and three-year deadline causes you to lose your right to sue for damages from the medical practitioner in question unless the following exceptions are present:

  • If the patient can prove fraud
  • If the patient can determine the malicious intent of the dentist or oral healthcare provider to conceal his or her malpractice
  • If the claims stem from the presence of a foreign body with no therapeutic purpose or effect inside the patient after a surgical procedure

If the plaintiff was not aware that a foreign object was left inside his or her body, they could still bring their medical malpractice claims to court even if it is already passed the three-year standard statute of limitations. Additionally, the deadline of filing for a medical malpractice lawsuit on behalf of a minor must still fall within the three-year period unless the child involved is under the age of six. The lawsuit must then be filed within three years of the malpractice incident, or before the child turns eight years old, whichever scenario gives a longer window for filing a case.

Remember that the one-year deadline for you to file for a dental malpractice lawsuit starts the moment you discover or get injured because of the negligence of a dentist or an oral healthcare provider.

Consult an Experienced Dental Malpractice Lawyer Today

If you think you think you have experienced a form of dental malpractice and would want to sue for damages, the best course of action is to employ expert medical malpractice attorneys from Mesriani Law. As one of the most prolific law firms in California, their competent attorneys will make sure you get the proper compensation you deserve from your dental malpractice claims and ensure to file your claim within the statute of limitations for dental malpractice cases in California. Never pursue your medical malpractice claims on your own because you will only be putting yourself at a disadvantageous position. Have the best outcome from your claims with our experience, representation, and efficient legal support.

Contact Mesriani Law Group now and schedule a free consultation with our competent medical malpractice lawyers and take advantage of our No Win, No Free guarantee for your negligence claims.