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Law Offices of Fred B. Goldberg, PC May 7, 2024

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Dental Malpractice?

Many people experience dental anxiety. Some fear dentists because of the anticipation of pain, while others have had past negative experiences with dental care.  

Nonetheless, when you sit in the dentist’s chair, you expect to receive quality care from a qualified medical provider. While dentists generally provide good service, occasionally things go wrong. When they do, a patient may sue their dentist for dental malpractice.  

Your right to file a dental malpractice lawsuit is guaranteed by law. However, the law dictates how long a person has to sue before they lose their right to compensation, known as the “statute of limitations.”  

As an established dental malpractice firm, we understand that legal cases stemming from a dentist’s deviation from accepted standards of care must be handled promptly.  

At Law Offices of Fred B. Goldberg, PC located in Maryland, we emphasize dental malpractice and provide compassionate legal representation to clients throughout Columbia, Baltimore, Towson, Frederick, Annapolis, Ocean City, and Washington D.C.

Dental Malpractice: When Can You Sue a Dentist?

Dental malpractice occurs whenever a dentist’s conduct falls below a professional standard of care. This can cause a variety of injuries, including nerve damage, broken or lost teeth, infection, loss of taste, and fractured jaws, among others.  

Some of the common ways a dentist may deviate from accepted standards of care and commit dental malpractice include:  

  • Misdiagnosis 

  • Delayed diagnosis 

  • Poor tooth extraction techniques

  • Improper administration of anesthesia 

  • Failed dental implants 

  • Failure to refer to a specialist 

  • Failure to obtain informed consent 

Like any other medical professional, dentists and their staff must abide by the standards of care accepted within their practice. In other words, you can sue a dentist for dental malpractice when you can prove that they acted in a manner that no reasonable dentist would under the same circumstances.  

If you're not sure whether or not your dentist committed dental malpractice, feel free to connect with our attorney at the Law Offices of Fred B. Goldberg, PC.  

The Statute of Limitations for Dental Malpractice in Maryland

The statute of limitations is a deadline for initiating legal action that gives a person a specific amount of time to file a lawsuit after an incident or injury. If a person (an injured patient in the case of dental malpractice) does not file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires, they permanently lose their right to sue.  

In Maryland, dental malpractice falls under the larger umbrella of medical malpractice, which is subject to a five-year statute of limitations according to Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 5-109.

The five-year limit acts as the absolute deadline from the date the alleged malpractice occurred, regardless of when the patient discovers their injury. Maryland law recognizes two notable exceptions to the statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases:  

Continuous Treatment Rule

Sometimes, a doctor may treat the same patient over a few years, making it difficult to determine exactly when the patient suffered harm. Under the continuous treatment rule, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until treatment by the doctor for the same condition stops.

Example: If a dentist begins to treat the patient’s tooth erosion in December 2022 and continuously provides treatment for the same condition that stops in September 2023, the statute of limitations will begin in September 2023.  

Discovery Rule

Often, a patient may not realize they have been harmed by their dentist for months or even years after receiving treatment. That is why Maryland law recognizes the discovery rule, which gives patients three years to sue for dental and other forms of medical malpractice from the date they discovered or should have discovered the harm.

Example: If a patient receives treatment from their dentist in June 2022 but does not discover dental problems caused by the dentist’s malpractice until April 2024, they will be able to file a dental malpractice lawsuit until April 2027.  

However, it's important to keep in mind that all dental malpractice claims are time-barred after five years because Maryland law sets an absolute limit of five years from the date the dentist (or another medical professional) commits malpractice, regardless of when the harm was discovered.  

When Can the Statute of Limitations Be Paused?

In certain circumstances, the statute of limitations for dental malpractice may be paused. These circumstances include:

  • The patient was a minor. If the minor was underage at the time they received substandard care from their dentist, the three-year statute of limitations will not start until that individual turns 18. In other words, the harmed patient will have until their 21st birthday to pursue a dental malpractice lawsuit.  

  • Fraudulent concealment. If the dentist fraudulently concealed the harm they caused to their patient, the statute of limitations may be paused until they become aware of the harm.  

  • Mental incapacity. If the patient was mentally incapacitated when they received treatment, the statute of limitations will not begin until the patient becomes mentally capable and regains legal capacity.  

If you are not sure how long you have to sue your dentist for dental malpractice and want to know if any exceptions apply to your situation, speak with our attorney.  

Law Offices of Fred B. Goldberg, PC: The Legal Guidance You Can Rely On

Our attorney at the Law Offices of Fred B. Goldberg, PC, has represented countless clients who have been victims of dental malpractice across Maryland.  

Since 1981, we have successfully obtained multi-million-dollar settlements and verdicts on behalf of our clients. Our lead attorney Fred B. Goldberg, who was named a 2022 Lawyer of Distinction, possesses a uniquely close perspective of dentistry from his father, who was a dentist, and his mother, who was a dental chair assistant.  

If you're ready to discuss your situation with our attorney, connect with us today to schedule a free case evaluation.


How Common Is Dental Malpractice  -

When it comes to the care of our teeth, we often place a great deal of trust in our dentists. But, just like any medical treatment, dental procedures carry their risks. You may be wondering, how common is dental malpractice? And, what can you do if you're a victim?

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