How to sue a dentist who left town?

by Suzan
(Ocala, Florida, U.S.A.)

A friend of mine went to a dentist to have all her top teeth extracted and a plate put in. She has had a lot of problems since the procedure. The dentist broke off or ground down all those teeth, leaving the roots intact. It has been very painful for her.

That dentist soon left town. Another dentist found out and wouldn't help her. This occurred in Ocala, Florida in 2007. My friend is disabled. She said she talked to an attorney and he said she would have to find the dentist to sue him. How could she find the dentist? Is there anything else she can do to get compensated for the shoddy work he did? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "How to sue a dentist who left town?":

Suzan (Ocala, Florida, U.S.A.):

If the dentist worked along with a group of other dentists there may be a liability insurance policy available which covered the group's actions during the policy's term.

Contact the Florida Dental Board through this site. You won't need the location of the dentist,

You can also call this telephone number: (850) 488-0595. They can supply you with complaint forms and location information. If the dentist was a sole practitioner there are many good private investigation agencies which can also help in locating him.

Your friend can also file a lawsuit against the dentist either in the county in which the dentist had his practice or in the county in which your friend lives.

Once the suit is filed you can ask the court for what is referred to as "substitute service". That means if your friend can convince the judge you exercised "due diligence" in attempting to locate the dentist, and all efforts were futile, that the lawsuit against the dentist can proceed in the dentist's absence.

If that happens your friend can take a judgement against the dentist in whatever amount the Judge or jury decides is fair. In the State of Florida the Small Claims Court's Jurisdiction, or "maximum amount" your friend can sue for is $5,000 dollars.

If that's not enough your friend should consult with several personal injury attorneys. Most will not charge any fee for an initial office consultation. Make sure you find at least a couple who have experience in dental malpractice cases.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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