If you have suffered an avoidable injury or gone through unnecessary pain due to the lack of care taken by a dentist, you may be able to claim compensation for dentist medical negligence. A dentist is a medical practitioner – the same as any doctor or consultant – and owes patients a ‘duty of care’ to provide the best professional service whenever possible.
Negligent dentistry claims can be made for more than the extraction of a wrong tooth or for failing to insert tooth implants correctly, and you should be able to make a claim for dental error compensation if you have sustained an injury or the preventable deterioration of an existing dental condition due to your dentist:-
- failing to identify and treat tooth decay,
- failing to identify and treat gum disease,
- failing to provide adequate root canal therapy,
- failing to provide adequate fillings or crowns, or
- causing an injury through negligent cosmetic dentistry.
If you believe that you have suffered an avoidable injury or unnecessary pain due to the lack of care taken by your dentist, you should speak with a solicitor at the first practical opportunity. Although this guide provides basic information which may be of use in deciding whether you may have a claim for negligent dental treatment compensation which is worth your while to pursue, it is no substitute for seeking professional legal advice in relation to your own personal circumstances.
Qualifying for Dental Error Compensation
Many times following dental treatment, patients feel pain for a considerable period afterwards; but this does not necessarily mean that it is possible to make a claim for negligent dental treatment compensation. In order to qualify for compensation for dentist medical negligence, you must have suffered the unnecessary loss of a tooth, sustained an injury or experienced the deterioration of an existing condition because of a mistake made by your dentist.
If no preventable injury has been sustained, or the deterioration of your existing condition would have happened irrespective of what action was taken by your dentist, negligent dentistry claims for compensation are unlikely to be successful. Furthermore, whatever injury you sustained must have been avoidable ‘at the time and in the circumstances’ and due to the lack of skill demonstrated by your dentist. Only if it can be established that you sustained an avoidable injury due to a lack of care taken by your dentist will you qualify for dental error compensation.
Establishing Negligence in Negligent Dentistry Claims
In order to establish negligence in negligent dentistry claims, you should first discuss with a solicitor the injury you sustained due to alleged dental negligence. Your solicitor will write to your dentist to obtain notes from your dental history – without making any accusations of wrong-going until such time as the notes have been reviewed by a dental expert. The dental expert may then need to carry out his or her own examination on you.
In claims for dental error compensation, it may not have been the actual dentist who was negligent and responsible for your injuries. If errors had been made by a dental assistant or the office administrator who provided the treatment notes for your dentist, liability for your injury could be assigned to any one (or more) of a number of people depending on the size of the dental surgery you attended.
Making a Claim for Negligent Dental Treatment Compensation
If the dental expert believes that avoidable losses or injuries were sustained during your treatment or that an avoidable deterioration of an existing occurred, your solicitor will send a ‘Letter of Claim’ to the hospital, clinic or individual(s) involved, advising them that you are making a claim for negligent dental treatment compensation and support the letter with the evidence and opinions of the dental expert used to review your claim.
The negligent party – or more frequently their medical insurance company – has twenty-one days in which to acknowledge receipt of the letter and a further ninety days to advise your solicitor whether or not they accept liability for your negligent dental treatment. No mention of how much compensation for dentist medical negligence you may be entitled to is made until liability is accepted – at which time your solicitor will enter into negotiations with the medical insurance company to settle your claim for dental error compensation for the maximum possible amount.
Calculating Compensation for Dentist Medical Negligence
How much compensation for dentist medical negligence you may be entitled to receive is calculated according to the nature and extent of your injury, the impact that your negligent dental treatment is likely to have on your health in the future and whether remedial treatment is available to reverse the injury caused by your dentist´s negligence.
If the pain from the dental error has prevented you from enjoying an active social life or participating in leisure pursuits that are usually part of your regular routine prior, or you have developed a lack of confidence due to negligent dentistry, you can also include your ‘loss of amenity’ in negligent dentistry claims, along with compensation for any diagnosed psychological injury you have suffered.
Any expenses you have incurred for pain killers or remedial treatment, or any income you have lost due to being unable to work which can be attributed to the mistakes made by your dentist or a member of their support team, can also be recovered in a claim for dental error compensation.
Negligent Dentistry Claims for Children
If your child has sustained an injury or suffered the deterioration of an existing condition due to avoidable problems during a dental procedure, the procedures for making negligent dentistry claims for children are similar to the above but with a few significant variations.
Children are not allowed to make a claim for negligent dental treatment compensation or instruct a solicitor until they reach the age of eighteen. Therefore a parent or guardian acting as a ‘Litigation Friend’ has to make a claim for compensation for dentist medical negligence on the child´s behalf. The ‘Litigation Friend’ cannot be a person who has a conflict of interest – for example if a dentist has treated their own child – and must be prepared to accept the financial consequences if a claim for dental error compensation is unsuccessful.
All settlements of negligent dentistry claims for children, once agreed, must first be approved by a court before the claim for negligent dental treatment compensation is concluded, and are then paid into court funds – where they remain until the child becomes a legal adult. Compensation settlements held by the court can be accessed if the child needs funds for remedial dental treatment or if the ‘Litigation Friend’ is to recover expenses incurred in pursuit of their child´s compensation for dentist medical negligence.
Time Limits in which to Claim Compensation for Dentist Medical Negligence
The time limits in which to claim for negligent dental treatment compensation are set by the Limitations Act 1980. The ‘Statute of Limitations’ for negligent dentistry claims allows three years from the date an injury due to your dentist´s negligence has been identified – not necessarily from the date the injury took place.
For example, if a gum disease was not identified until six months after a previous appointment and action taken at the time would have prevented an irreversible injury, the date on which the gum disease was correctly diagnosed and attributed to dentist negligence becomes the ‘Date of Knowledge’ from when the three-year period starts. Claims do not have to be resolved within this three-year period, as the full consequences of a dental injury caused by your dentist´s error may not yet be apparent.
Unsolicited Offers of Dental Error Compensation
It may be the case – sometimes even before you have considered making negligent dentistry claims – that you are approached directly by an insurance company representing the negligent party with an unsolicited offer of compensation for dentist medical negligence. Approaches such as these – also known as ‘Third Party Capture’ – are aimed at settling your claim for negligent dental treatment compensation for the least amount possible in order to save the insurance company money.
If you receive an unsolicited offer of dental error compensation, you should refer it immediately to your solicitor. Should you inadvertently accept the offer of compensation for dentist medical negligence, and it proves to be inadequate to pay for the remedial dental treatment you need to repair the damage caused by your dentist´s negligence, you cannot make further negligent dentistry claims to account for the shortfall.
If short-term finances are an issue for you, and you are tempted to accept the figure being offered by the insurance company – even though it may be clearly inadequate – speak with your solicitor. Even though the insurance company´s unsolicited approach cannot be presented in court as an admission of their policyholder´s liability, it may be possible for your solicitor to arrange for interim payments of dental error compensation until such time as your claim for negligent dental treatment compensation is resolved.
Further Advice on Making a Claim for Negligent Dental Treatment Compensation
If you have sustained a dental injury or an existing dental condition has deteriorated, and you feel that it may be due to a lack of care by your dentist, the first thing you should do is speak with a solicitor. Many solicitors provide a free and confidential helpline which will enable you to determine whether you have a claim for dental error compensation which is worth your while to pursue.
Whatever the nature of your injury, a solicitor will understand many of the concerns you may have about making negligent dentistry claim against your dentist and help you to obtain a fair and appropriate settlement of compensation for dentist medical negligence will enable you to obtain the support and care you are entitled to because of somebody else´s mistake.