How to avoid a lawsuit

November 19, 2019
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How to avoid a lawsuit

Today’s litigious society is fraught with the possibility of patient altercations. Accusations of
negligence, or worse, malpractice, are a consistent threat to daily practice. While we’re sure
you would never intend to create a situation requiring legal intervention, things happen. But
some precautions can help to minimize the likelihood. The following are just a few preventative
measures to help you avoid a lawsuit:

1. Communicate effectively with your patients. Excellent verbal and nonverbal
communication skills are imperative to dental practice. Talk to your patients from a
position that puts you eye to eye with them and speak to them in language that they
can understand.
2. Develop rapport and express interest. A friendly (yet professional) rapport with your
patients will allow them to be more accepting of you, and your genuine interest in their
well-being will help you gain their trust.
3. Make sure patients are adequately informed. Use written consent forms as well as any
other educational aids that will help the patient understand the total treatment.
4. Have patients sign a contract. Leave no question about the patient’s exact
responsibilities regarding payment and financing.
5. Create payment plans. Payment plans ensure that patients are aware of their financial
responsibility. Keep in mind that patients with a balance are more likely to be unhappy
with their end results!
6. Don’t criticize others. The last thing you want to do is criticize a colleague, especially
when you are unaware of the situation that brought the patient to you in the first place.
Focus on the treatment needed.
7. Don’t make guarantees. You can’t guarantee that your treatment will last for a certain
period of time, since there are too many parameters affecting a patient’s dentition. The
best way to stand behind your treatment is to maintain your patients through continuity
of care.
8. Know your dentistry and know your limits. Maintain the current standard of care and
refer to specialists when appropriate.

By predicting certain situations, you may be able to prevent escalating sequelae. When you
identify shortcomings in your own treatment of patients, retreat them before those
shortcomings become failures. When you stand by your treatment, your patients will have a
higher level of respect for you. And that makes it less likely that they’ll resort to a lawsuit.



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