Most people trust their dentists, even more than they trust medical doctors. But although dental malpractice claims across the USA are dropping, lawsuits involving dentists still occur. When they do, a dental expert witness can be the key to making—or breaking—a case.
Whether you represent the defendant or the plaintiff in a dental malpractice suit, you need to make sure the facts supporting your argument are as clear as possible. And it’s not always enough to rely on the witnesses you’ve used in the past. It often pays (quite literally) to find a new dental expert witness whose experience is specific to your current situation.
What’s the best way to do that? Well, here’s my advice:
When to Seek a New Dental Expert Witness
There’s no “one size fits all” solution when hiring a dental expert witness, because no two malpractice suits are exactly alike. That said, most of these suits fall into one of several different categories, including:
- Cases of alleged restorative, crown and bridge, prosthodontic or cosmetic treatment failure.
- Cases of alleged dental implant treatment failure.
- Cases involving alleged nerve injury from oral surgeries (including wisdom tooth removal, dental implants, root canal therapy, and bone grafts).
- Cases involving TMJ, occlusal/bite issues or trigeminal neuralgia.
- Cases involving alleged complications from endodontic/root canal or periodontal procedures.
- Cases involving misdiagnosis or standard of care issues.
One critical piece of information in many of these cases is whether it can be proven that the dentist met or failed to meet the appropriate standard of care (generally, the plaintiff tries to prove that they did not meet it, while the defendant tries to prove they did). But since the standard of care in dentistry constantly evolves alongside current clinical and academic knowledge, establishing this proof beyond a reasonable doubt can be extraordinarily complex—even for attorneys who’ve taken on dental malpractice suits in the past.
The key is to find a dental expert witness whose professional knowledge aligns directly with the facts and issues of your case. Think of it this way: the more knowledgeable, adept, and credible your witness is, the more their support will mean when you argue the issues of the case and the standard of care.
That’s why you won’t necessarily succeed by choosing any available witness (or relying on the same witnesses you’ve used in the past). You’re more likely to achieve the optimal outcome by considering the type of malpractice suit you’re currently involved in, and working with a new witness whose specific knowledge and experience allows them to best evaluate and advise in that type of case.
What to Look For in a Dental Expert Witness
There are many factors to consider when retaining a dental expert witness, but I’ve streamlined the process by focusing on a few essential questions. Here’s what you should try to find out before engaging a potential new expert witness for your case:
How much experience do they have?
Practicing dentistry doesn’t necessarily make someone an expert, especially in the context of a lawsuit. A witness with decades of clinical and teaching experience will be better equipped to evaluate and advise defense or plaintiff counsel than one who is newer to the field.
How relevant is their experience to your case?
When it comes to experience, remember that quality is at least as important as quantity. If your case is about a patient who experienced nerve damage after getting dental implants, your dental expert witness should have advanced training and years of experience in implants, implant planning and placement, oral surgery, and nerve injuries.
An even better expert witness would have training and experience in critical associated areas of dental care like crown and bridge work, bone grafting, and occlusion. Essentially, your expert witness should be well-versed in both the relevant specifics and generalities to optimally evaluate the case and opine on it.
Finally, choose a dentist whose career has been diverse as well as extensive. Don’t just look for someone who has rendered these treatments in their clinical practice before. Instead, retain a witness whose background is supported by experience from at least one of the following:
- Graduating from a leading dental school.
- Hospital residency training.
- Fellowship training and credentials.
- Advanced multidisciplinary training and certification.
- Dento-legal experience – Former Chairman of the New York County Dental Malpractice Claims Committee, expert witness consultant to attorneys representing plaintiffs, dentists, dental schools and hospitals.
- A faculty appointment at a prominent dental school with years of academic and teaching experience.
How much experience do they have with lawsuits and court cases?
Finally, it’s best to retain a dental expert witness who understands how malpractice suits work. A witness with significant experience in the clinical field but none in the legal and court systems may not be as useful as you think.
Conversely, a dental expert witness with a demonstrable record of success in case analysis and preparation, writing effective reports, and giving strong testimony at deposition and trial is more likely to understand and achieve the ideal outcome for your case. Their expertise may even help you secure an optimal settlement for your client before it ever goes to trial.
Find the Dental Expert Witness Your Case Deserves
Your case may hinge on the credibility of your dental expert witness, so it’s critical to retain one whose authority on the subject of your lawsuit is beyond reproach. For more information on how to choose a witness you can count on, reach out today and request a consultation.