Dental Malpractice Attorney in NYC
If you are a New York licensed dentist facing an investigation by the New York Board of Dentistry and the state Department of Education Office of Professional Discipline, our dental malpractice attorney can help with your case. We have over a decade of experience successfully representing dentists and dental hygienists.
New York disciplinary process is complicated and most dentists and dental hygienists never had to deal with it, so let’s cover the basics first.
Dentistry in New York is regulated by the state board of dentistry and the state Department of Education. Every licensed dentist and dental hygienist falls under their jurisdiction when it comes to regulation and professional discipline. This means that the state has authority to investigate and prosecute all instances of professional misconduct by dentists. The question what constitutes professional discipline is found in New York State Education Law, which lists dozens and dozens of examples of what is considered professional misconduct. While any one of them is grounds for prosecution and discipline, some of the most common issues that gets New York dentists in trouble with the state include the following:
- Being convicted of a crime in any state. All crime falls under this category, felonies and misdemeanors.
- Practicing with alcohol and drug issues
- Negligence (this is the most common cause of disciplinary actions for New York Dentists
- Failing to supervise staff
- Allowing unlicensed staff to practice dentistry
- Fraudulent practice, which often includes billing issues.
- Failure to keep proper records
- Practicing without a license or with an expired license
- Fee splitting with unauthorized partners
Negligence, by far is the number one cause of disciplinary complains and enforcement actions against dentists in New York. Let’s consider some of the most common accusations of negligence in the actual cases we handled:
- Failing to adequately assess or diagnose treatment options
- Performing extractions without adequate justification or without offering less invasive treatment options
- Delegating professional responsibilities to a unqualified or unlicensed person (such as allowing them to perform x-rays and cleaning)
- Perforating a patient’s tooth during root canal
- Treating the wrong tooth
- Failing to record the patient’s existing conditions
Disciplinary cases involving New York dentists usually begin with patient complaint to the Office of Professional Discipline (OPD) although some cases are generated from other sources such as the insurance companies, Medicaid authorities, law enforcement, or courts. When a complaint is filed with the OPD, the agency will begin the inquiry and at some point the licensee will be notified by a letter that there is an investigation of allegations of professional misconduct. When it concerns patient care, the OPD will always request the dentist to turn over patient records, which will then be reviewed by the board expert. Often, the licensee will be requested to meet with the investigator in order to be interviewed.
It is very important to realize that as a licensed professional, the dentist is obligated to comply with the investigators’ demands to produce records. In fact, failure to do so will result in additional disciplinary charges against the dentist. However, there is absolutely no obligation to speak with the investigators. In fact, in most cases it would be damaging to the defense case to do so prior to speaking with a lawyer. The reason for that is the investigators will use any information provided to them to build a case against the dentist.
When the investigation is over, the board members and the OPD prosecutor will decide whether there is enough evidence for bringing disciplinary charges against the dentist. Hopefully, the licensee has an attorney who will discuss the case with the prosecutor in an attempt to resolve it.
The licensee will have an option to have the case decided in a hearing or work out a consent agreement with the state. Consent agreement is similar to a plea agreement in criminal cases. It means that the dentist will admit misconduct in exchange for reduced discipline.
When it comes to actual disciplinary penalties, the Education Department has many options. The most serious discipline, of course, is license revocation. Alternatively, the dentist may choose to voluntarily surrender dental license. Additionally, license may be suspended or the dentist may be censured and reprimanded, certain restrictions may be put on their practice, they may be placed on probation and ordered to pay fines.
When facing with disciplinary charges, it is important for dentists to engage the services of an attorney who has real experience and proven record of dealing with the OPC and the state board of dentistry. Most lawyers lack these qualifications and it is crucial that you seek those who are better suited for this task.
Joseph Potashnik and Associates dental malpractice attorney have been defending NY dentists before the OPD for many years, dealing with all types of cases at all stages from the initial investigation to hearings. Call us today to schedule your consultation with us!