Dentists are held to similarly rigorous standards as that of a regular medical practitioner – and, as medical practitioners, they are subject to multiple forms of liability, from civil liability (like in malpractice) even to criminal liability (like healthcare fraud or even assault). A strong defense attorney will be able to assist the dental clinic in both preventing and mitigating criminal liability, and defending against any suits that might be prosecuted. The same federal statutes that relate to medical healthcare fraud also apply to dental care practitioners that benefit from health insurance providers.
Criminal suits are less common in dental clinics than civil suits – any injuries or harm that comes to the patient is not considered a crime as long as the act was carried out in good faith and in the course of treatment. However, there are some exceptions to this. Obviously, if the act was not in good faith and was intentionally inflicted, the dental clinic or professional could be held criminally liable for assault and/or batter. Some of the more heinous crimes involve patients that are unconscious because of the anesthetic applied during routine procedures, who are then sexually molested or otherwise abused by the dental professional. A criminal defense attorney will be able to develop defenses and trial strategies to help the accused. Additionally, an attorney will be able to begin negotiating with the prosecution in the effort to obtain a fair plea bargain. More often than not, the negotiation will involve the dentist giving up his or her dental license as part of the settlement.
Interestingly, there are some elements of ‘white collar’ crime that dentists and dental clinics might be accused of. Dental insurance is not abundantly common, and in the United States, dental care is only covered for people under the age of 21. Therefore, abuse of this system is inherently less prevalent than that of the medical system, but abuse still does exist. Healthcare fraud has become a major target and concern of both the federal and state government. Dentists who engage in healthcare fraud usually bill for services that were not rendered, prescribe medication that is unnecessary, or order treatments or services that are irrelevant or unnecessary to the treatment of their patient at that time. This can result in overpayment of dental treatments, to the detriment of the country at large.
Before the government gets involved, get an attorney involved. Attorneys can help you run an internal audit or investigation and spot red flags in your financial operations and billing procedures. If you suspect fraud, an attorney can help you find qualified accountants and other experts to root out the issue and provide a detailed analysis. In these cases, the best defense is a good offense. Be scrupulous and diligent about your record keeping.
In the event criminal charges are brought against the dental facility or other dental care professionals, an attorney will be able to defend against the accusations. An attorney will organize the facility and conduct an internal review early on in the case so that they have all information as soon as possible (and hopefully simultaneously with the prosecution, if not before). Finally, because these investigations usually involve the demand for the production of many documents, an attorney can help you draft and prepare responses to these demands – assertions of privilege (such as attorney-client privilege) will be easily recognized and utilized by a competent dental care fraud defense attorney.