Dentist Negligence Solicitors - Personal Injury Compensation Claim Law

Most dental surgery is carried out effectively however there are times when things go wrong and a problem does arise which is where we can step in to help you claim compensation. Our specialist dentist negligence solicitors are all members of the Solicitors Regulation Authority panel of clinical negligence experts and deal with dental negligence claims using the no win no fee** scheme. You will not be asked to fund or finance the dental negligence claim as it proceeds. We operate the no win no fee* scheme otherwise known as a conditional fee agreement. No legal charge is payable unless the legal case is won and the client obtains an award of compensation. In the event that the legal claim is lost there is no charge made to the client. For children or those on a low income it may also be possible to obtain Legal Aid which always concentrates dental negligence insurers minds on settlement. If you have a complaint against a dentist and would like to find out if you have a viable case for compensation we offer free legal advice with no further obligation. To talk to a specialist lawyer about a dentist or a dental problem just use the helpline, complete the contact form or email us and we’ll arrange a call-back at a convenient time.

Dentist Negligence

Whilst you may have a justifiable complaint against a dentist because of a dental problem, the most difficult question to ask in a dental negligence claim is whether or not the dentist was actually negligent. Determining fault by a dentist is not as easy as it may seem as the definition of negligent dental treatment has changed and developed over the last century. Currently the standard of care required is such that it must not have fallen below an acceptable level which is determined by reference to several parameters chief of which is the necessity to show that a significant number of dentists faced with a similar medical situation would have responded in the same way as the dentist against whom negligence is alleged. This means that if there are several possible methods of treatment, provided that there is significant support from medical practitioners, a dentist will not be deemed to be negligent if the specific treatment that was chosen failed whereas the use of alternative treatment may have succeeded. The one proviso in this definition of negligence is that the treatment used, even though it may have been supported by a significant group of dentists, must stand up to logical analysis in regards to the particular medical situation that arose.

Negligent Dentistry Claims

A compensation award for a dentists errors is calculated by reference to the severity of the injury, the recovery time and the long term consequences. Financial settlement in a dental negligence compensation claim is achieved by the patients solicitors submitting a medical report received from a qualified consultant dentist who is usually a specialist in that particular area of dental practice, to the solicitors instructed to act on behalf of the dentist by insurers. If liability is admitted, any initial offer of settlement for dental negligence is usually negotiated to produce an award that is satisfactory to both parties. If liability for medical negligence is denied the matter must proceed to a full hearing, before a judge in a court of law.

Dentist Error & Compensation Awards

Once negligence has been established it must thereafter be shown that the injury caused to the patient was as a direct result of the negligent dental treatment and was not caused solely by the initial underlying problem that necessitated the initial treatment. Once the extent of the injury caused exclusively by the negligent treatment has been established the amount of the financial award for pain and suffering is estimated using the values of compensation in previously decided cases, coupled with guidelines issued by the Judicial Studies Board and in cases that actually go to trial the amount of the award is tempered with the judges own experience. In addition to the element of pain and suffering other expenses can be claimed including the cost of further dental treatment to rectify the problem and damages for loss of wages as well as all other reasonably incurred expense.

The amount of the award of financial compensation in a medical negligence compensation claim includes the following items:-

  • Pain & Suffering - this item is determined after consideration of the extent of the injury, the time taken for recovery and any long term consequences. The amount is determined after consideration of dental negligence compensation awarded in previous court cases and thereafter making a comparison. The UK government does issue guidelines to lawyers and judges to determine the amount of an award for personal injury.

  • Medical Expenses - complex procedures involving dental treatment may be carried out on the National Health Service however many treatments are now carried out on a privately paid basis. In either case, in the event of dental negligence being proved, our solicitors are able to claim the cost of rectification on a private basis including treatment that may be required at a future date.

  • Loss of Earnings - We are able to claim loss of income if the repair of the negligent dental treatment has resulted in time off work. Claims can also be made for loss of earnings due to future anticipated treatment that may be necessary in due course.

  • General Expenses - all losses that have been reasonably incurred due to dental negligence can be claimed back, including any private medical expenses, travel expenses, accommodation for specialist treatment etc.

Settlement Procedure

Our dentist negligence solicitors overall aim in medical cases is to negotiate a settlement out of court without the necessity of preparing for a trial. This is usually achieved by obtaining a medical report from a specialist independent dental surgeon with experience in dental negligence claims who examines the dental records. That report is then used as the basis for a formal letter of claim which is generally the start of initial negotiations for settlement. Once the dentist has received the letter of claim the matter will be referred to insurers who will deal with the matter on the dentist’s behalf. In the event that the matter is not defended it will proceed to settlement either by agreement or by the intervention of the court merely to assess damages. If the insurers indicate that they intend to defend the claim then the issue of liability will proceed to a court hearing.

Time Limits

Time limits in dental negligence claims are governed by The Limitation Act 1980. In general terms if you have a complaint against a dentist, a claim must be settled or proceedings must have been issued in a court of law within three years of the incident giving rise to injury failing which the opportunity to claim compensation may have been lost forever. There are exceptions to this general rule for minors, where time does not start to run until the age of eighteen years and for the mentally handicapped, where time does not start to run until mental capacity has been regained. In addition time does not start to run until the medical problem has been formally identify and diagnosed which may be many years after the initial erroneous treatment. Judges also have a rarely exercised discretion to over-ride all time limits within The Limitation Act 1980.

no win no fee*

We are one of the few firms who deal with dental negligence claims using a risk free no win no fee* arrangement. Most of our competitors will offer a no win no fee* scheme but will expect their clients to pay for expenses as the case proceeds. These expenses can be very substantial often amounting to thousands of pounds and if the case is lost or abandoned then the client has the problem of losing their contribution. If you would like a full explanation of how we work in relation to dental problems and complaints against dentists, don't hesitate to call the helpline where you will find a dentist negligence solicitor who speaks plain English who will explain matters in detail without using any legal jargon. Do yourself justice and give us a call.

Claims Procedure

Dental negligence claims are no different to any other medical negligence claim, the legal procedure for which is based on compensation claims for general personal injury but with some substantial differences of protocol due to the different nature of clinical claims. The overriding goal of most lawyers is to negotiate early settlement without the necessity of issuing legal proceedings in a court of law. Most cases with compelling evidence of negligence will settle once the medical situation has reached stability however for those that don't settle either due to evidential difficulties or due to intransigence of insurers it may be necessary to issue a summons in a court of law whereupon the established protocols for medical negligence compensation claims will be invoked. Upon initial contact our lawyers will take a detailed statement and in suitable cases will enter into a no win no fee* agreement. A full assessment of the case will then take place following access to medical records held by the negligent dentist. All documentation will then be considered by a medical consultant who is a clinical negligence expert and that report will be used to draft a formal letter a claim. All medical practitioners carry compulsory insurance for dental problems and the matter will thereafter be handled by insurers who have three months to respond to the claim with either an admission of liability or an intention to deny liability and defend the claim. In the event that there is no admission the matter then proceeds to a final hearing in court to determine the issues.

Damages Awards

Damages in a dental negligence claim are divided into two main categories both of which carry interest but at different rates :-

  • Special Damages represents compensation for items that can be calculated with a reasonable degree of accuracy without the need for detailed assessment including:-

    • loss of earnings
    • medical expenses
    • travelling expenses
  • General Damages represents compensation for items that cannot be calculated on a strict mathematical basis and need to be assessed, the main component of which is pain and suffering. The amount awarded by a judge in a dental negligence claim is based on previously decided cases and guidelines provided by an independent body called the Judicial Studies Board.

Dental Records

In order for a dental negligence claim to be assessed it is necessary for the medical records to be accessed. The simplest way is for the patient to make a direct request for the records under section 7 of the Data Protection Act of 1998. A full copy of the records must then be supplied for a small fee. If a dentist causes a problem by being tardy or intransigent in the provision of records, a solicitor can make an application to a court of law, 40 days after the initial request requiring production of the records. In addition a complaint about professional behaviour can be made to the General Dental Council following failure to disclose the records.

The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here