Unit 4: Administrative Operations
Administrative Operations

Section 3. Liability Protection

Malpractice Insurance

Any individual who believes he or she has suffered a personal injury resulting from dental treatment can file a malpractice claim against the provider of that treatment and the organization for which the provider works. The claim must be filed within the statute of limitations of the date of the alleged incident or from the patient's knowledge of the alleged injury (this period of time varies from state to state and sometimes depends on the type of injury alleged; statutes of limitations tend to range from 1 to 4 years). The insurance carrier of the oral health professional and/or the health care organization will investigate the claim to determine its merit. If the claim is considered meritorious, settlement negotiations will usually be initiated. If the insurance provider believes there is no liability on the part of the oral health professional, the claimant will be notified. At that time, the claim may be taken to court for a legal decision.

  • There was a duty of the health professional to the patient to conform to standard conduct or a standard of care established by the profession or by law.
  • There was a breach of that duty by the health professional, whereby the health professional failed to conform to the accepted standard of conduct or care.
  • There were actual damages to the patient in the form of bodily harm, either permanent or temporary.
  • Causation can be established; that is, the damage must have resulted from the breach of duty, either in fact or by proximate cause. Proximate cause is a legal concept based on foreseeability of harm when a duty is breached. (e.g., one can foresee that failure to use a rubber dam when performing endodontics can result in the aspiration of a dropped file.)
  • Provide conscientious dental care.
  • Encourage and support CDE for employees.
  • Make clear and legible entries in the health record.
  • Bring the patient into the decision-making process through informed consent.
  • Conduct peer review and analysis of adverse events that occur in the clinic.
  • Discipline repeat offenders by reducing their privileges or by dismissal.
  • Place an emphasis on establishing a good rapport with patients.
  • Use a patient’s bill of rights and responsibilities, written in in terms that the patient can understand and provided in pamphlet form and as a poster prominently displayed in the health care facility.