Defending Your Dental Practice Against Lawsuits

Although operating a dental practice differs from other businesses in many ways, one thing they have in common is the potential of being hit with a lawsuit. While a malpractice lawsuit is obviously a critical concern for most dentists, any legal dispute that rises to the level of litigation can be a major distraction. The best way to protect your interests is to enlist the services of an attorney with experience representing dental professionals

Let’s take a look at some of the key legal actions dental practices should be prepared to defend.

Partnership Disputes

The best way to avoid a dispute between partners in a dental practice is to have a formal written agreement in place. Given that a dental practice involves valuable assets, a lawsuit can seriously impact the owner’s bottom line. If you are a solo practitioner and considering bringing on an associate, it is crucial to have a formal agreement in place. By working with the right attorney, you can structure the agreement to clarify the rights and responsibilities of each party, and also establish remedies in the event of a dispute.

Dental Board Complaints

While most dentists adhere to professional standards, it is not uncommon for patients to file complaints with the dental board. Whether related to negligent care or illegal activity (e.g. the unlicensed practice of dentistry), a dental board complaint can be a time consuming and costly affair. Generally, dental board complaints can involve patient harm, substance abuse or other impairment, sexual misconduct, and unprofessional conduct that impacts patient care.
The investigation process can can be a major inconvenience for the dental practice. Moreover, if the dental board finds that disciplinary action is necessary, it can impose fines, monitor the practice on an ongoing basis, suspend the dentist from practicing for a set period of time, or revoke the practice’s license. 

Insurance Audits

When a dental practice enters into an agreement with an insurance provider, the dentist typically consents to be audited at any time. While audits are designed to ensure the practice is meeting its contractual obligations, audits may also be triggered by inconsistent billing patterns, a high frequency of certain procedures being performed, or potentially fraudulent activity.

Because audits may take a significant amount of time and possibly lead to reimbursing insurance payouts or even prosecution by state or federal authorities, it is critically important to  comply with regulations and maintain proper and detailed records. Ultimately, having proper legal representation can help to mitigate any potential issues arising from a insurance audit.

Employment Lawsuits

Lawsuits that involve employees typically involve some form discrimination or harassment (e.g. sexual harassment, wage and hour claims, or racial, gender, and age discrimination). In short, a dental practice involved in a lawsuit could face expensive legal fees, as well as limitations on its ability to continue operating efficiently and effectively. One way to minimize the potential of employment lawsuits is to develop a comprehensive employee handbook.

The Takeaway

In the end, being involved in a lawsuit can interfere with the success of your dental practice. By enlisting the services of an attorney with experience in the dental field, you can protect your practice, your livelihood, your staff, and last but not least, your patients.