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How to File a Complaint Against a Dentist in California

Camila Lopez - Dentists - August 26, 2022

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A dentist visit can be an uncomfortable experience depending on what type of procedure you are receiving. Even worse, maybe your dentist performed the wrong procedure or never treated you but you had a contract. If the dentist did a procedure you did not approve, did not perform the services you paid for, or the work they did caused an unexpected injury you may want to consider what legal options you have after your visit. These options include filing a small claims lawsuit or a complaint against the dentist with the appropriate state licensing agency. Suing a dentist in small claims court or filing a complaint might seem like a complicated process but in this article, we break down your options into easy to follow steps!‍

In this article learn about:

  • Reasons to sue a dentist 

  • Filing a complaint against the dentist with the appropriate state licensing agency 

  • What are the steps to suing a dentist in small claims court 

  • What is the small claims hearing like 

  • Preparing to file your small claims lawsuit against a dentist 

Reasons to sue a dentist 

You can sue a dentist in small claims court or file a complaint against a dentist. Some of the most common reasons to sue a dentist are:

  • Unexpected damage or injury to teeth 

  • Contract deposit not returned 

  • Services not performed 

  • Dentist performed a procedure that was not approved by you 

  • Sue for bad work 

Here is an example of a dispute against a dentist: 

  • You are a potential patient and look up local dentists in your area. You do not like the appearance of your teeth and want to set up an appointment with a dentist to get veneers. Dental veneers are thin, custom-made shells that are attached to the front surface of teeth to improve their appearance. The dentist you consult requires a $2,000 deposit before she can begin any work on your teeth. You sign a contract with the doctor for the services and provide the deposit. In all, the dentist is charging you $6,000 for her services. After you signed the contract and give the deposit you set up a date for the procedure. However, the dentist continues to push back the procedure due to scheduling or other issues, eventually, months pass. After some time you want your deposit back and would rather go to a different dentist. However, your dentist does not want to give you back your deposit because you are the one backing out of the contract. What do you do? Can you sue your dentist? Yes, you have certain legal options you can exercise against this dentist for your deposit back!

Suing a dentist in small claims court 

Here is an overview of how to sue a dentist in small claims court:

Step 1: Prepare and File the Lawsuit 

Step 2: Notify the dentist about the small claims lawsuit by serving them correctly 

Step 3: Prepare for your small claims hearing against your dentist

Step 1: Prepare and file the lawsuit

  • Prepare the lawsuit using the proper form, this is usually available for download on your local small claims court website.

  • The court will want to know why you are suing your dentist, how much are you suing your dentist for, and finally how you calculated the amount you are suing for.

  • You will need to search for the correct legal name (legal entity name) your dentist uses by running a business license search, a dental license search, or researching the Secretary of State website for your state. 

  • File the lawsuit. There are several ways you can file the lawsuit (1) in person at your local small claims court, (2) by mail (3) electronically (not available in all courts), (4) by fax (not available in all courts).

Step 2: Notify the dentist about the small claims lawsuit

  • Once the court returns the filed lawsuit to you, the next step is to serve your dentist (serving means to notify your dentist that they have been sued).

  • There are different rules on how to serve a dentist in each state so make sure you review the rules for serving. In many states, you will be able to have someone other than you serve your dentist directly. 

  • Always make sure to confirm with the court if there are any additional filings you need to complete and file after you have served your dentist. 

Step 3: Prepare your small claims hearing

  • Prepare your statement for the judge. Be prepared to tell the judge why you are suing your dentist. 

  •  Prepare your evidence. This is one of the most important steps to winning a small claims lawsuit! Evidence like screenshots, emails, and pictures, should be brought to the hearing (you should make a copy for yourself, the judge, and your dentist).

Checklist of Potential Evidence 

If your lawsuit against a dentist is about a contract you had with them, here is a sample checklist:

  • The contract with the dentist

  • Communications with the dentist or their office

  • Pictures

If your lawsuit against a dentist is about negligence, here is a sample checklist:

  • Pictures of what happened to you

  • Declarations from witnesses

  • Declarations from dentists

Filing a complaint against the dentist with the appropriate state licensing agency 

State Dental Boards are typically responsible for the licensing, monitoring and the safe practice of dentists and dental hygienists in their service to the people of a given state. Typically these boards can also take disciplinary action against those who engage in misconduct if you file a complaint against a licensed dentist. 

Here is a how to file a complaint against a dentist in California. 

Chief Legal Architect & Co-Founder @ People Clerk. Camila is an attorney, consumer advocate, and certified mediator. Her passion is breaking down complicated legal processes so that people without an attorney can get justice.

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