Dental Negligence Compensation Claim

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Article

16 May, 2023

Lisa_Atkinson
Lisa Atkinson
Associate

Following the backlogs caused by the Pandemic, it is clear to see that a large number of patients are experiencing difficulties in accessing routine and emergency dental treatment, with an estimated 13.5% of the UK being unable to access an NHS Dentist.

Regular check-ups should be a straightforward and pain free procedure. However, when bi-annual check-ups are left for longer periods due to lengthy backlogs or being denied an NHS Dentist, problems can arise which may require more attention as a consequence.

If delays are incurred, or mistakes are made during routine or cosmetic dental treatment, a patient could find themselves facing expensive and painful corrective treatment fees to put things right. Mistakes can be made by both Private and NHS Dental Professionals, but both have the same duty to you as a patient.

If you have been on the receiving end of poor treatment, you may be entitled to compensation.

What is Dental Negligence?

Dental negligence is any sub-standard care provided by a qualified dental professional that causes harm to a patient. This can be treatment provided by a Private or NHS Dentist, Orthodontist, Dental Nurse or Oral Hygienist.

Some of the most common examples of dental negligence usually arise from:

  • Periodontal negligence
  • Misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis (including delays in diagnosing or treating oral cancers)
  • Inadequate work or failure to provide an adequate treatment plan
  • Careless work (including incorrect fitting of crowns, bridges or dentures)
  • Failed dental procedures
  • Failures to take adequate radiology
  • Extractions of the wrong teeth
  • Failures to treat dental infections
  • Failures to provide preventive oral hygiene advice
  • Failures to identify and treat Trismus following local anaesthesia.

What is Trismus?

Trismus is a condition that can be linked to a variety of medical issues, but the most common cause usually arises following treatment to the temporomandibular joint (TMD), following anaesthetic procedures for the extraction of wisdom teeth.

Symptoms of Trismus include:

  • Your jaw muscles feeling tight, as if you have muscle cramps in your TMD
  • Your jaw hurts when you are not talking
  • Your jaw hurts when eating, chewing or trying to move the mouth from side to side
  • You experience difficulty and pain when opening the mouth, yawning or speaking.

If you experience these symptoms it is important for your dental professional to act quickly by reviewing your symptoms, examining your jaw, neck and temporomandibular joint and starting immediate treatment once the underlying cause has been identified. For example, if this has been caused by an abscess or infection it is important for your dental professional to provide immediate antibiotics or remove the infected tooth to prevent symptoms becoming worse. Muscle relaxants and/or physical therapy may also be administered to relieve the symptoms.

Whilst symptoms of Trismus are usually temporary if treated quickly, a delay in treatment may lead to permanent problems which can affect a patient's long-term ability to eat and chew solid food. In some cases, the strength in the jaw may be permanently damaged, and a delay in treating can also make it difficult or impossible to insert dentures, should they be required in the future. An inability to open the mouth properly for long periods can also lead to future oral and hygiene problems.

Dental Professionals are expected to carry out dental procedures in a safe and hygienic way. If you have suffered visible damage from a procedure or operation due to negligent treatment, or if you have been left with increased pain, sensitivity, or nerve damage as a result, then you may be entitled to pursue a compensation claim. If your dental professional has provided sub-standard treatment and your procedure does not go as expected, this is likely to be a stressful and painful experience for you that could have been avoided. In these circumstances, you may need to assess your legal options which could help cover the cost of any further or additional treatment which may be required as a result.

Making a claim against a dental professional can feel daunting. At Forbes Solicitors we have a dedicated team of medical negligence lawyers to assist you in the process.

How do I claim for Dental Negligence?

If your treatment has been provided on a private basis, the claim would be made against the performing Dentist's Insurance Company. If the treatment has been provided by the NHS, any successful claims are paid out by the NHS Resolution Authority, which is a separate fund put aside by the Government to compensate NHS patients who are affected by negligence.

What counts as Dental Negligence?

You can claim for whatever harm you have suffered due to the negligent dental treatment. This could include pain, suffering, psychological trauma or any other facial or cosmetic damage. If your dental treatment is performed negligently, this may also mean you have to have further restorative treatment due to its failure, which would also be recoverable.

What do I need to prove when making a Dental Negligence Claim?

For any legal action arising from negligence, it must be proven that:

  • The Dental Professional performing the treatment owed a duty of care to you, and;
  • That duty of care was breached, and;
  • You have suffered harm as a result of the breach, over and above what you would have suffered absence the negligence.

The burden of proof in a negligence claim will always rest with the claimant, who must be able to show, more likely than not (greater than 50%), that they were injured by a negligent act or omission for which the defendant is responsible.

What is the process for making a Dental Negligence Claim?

Each case differs and we will assess each case on its own merits. Generally, these are the steps that may be taken:

  1. Telephone or email one of our dedicated dental negligence lawyers, who will talk through your situation and the treatment you have received, and establish whether you have grounds for a claim.
  2. The first stage of the claim would then be to obtain the entirety of your dental records and x-rays. These would include the records from your present dentist, and any former dentist you have attended in the past. It is always helpful also to take photographs of the damage suffered, and provide a full chronology or detailed statement whilst the events are still fresh in your mind.
  3. The second stage would be to review those records and prepare a chronology of the treatment you have received.
  4. The third stage would be to instruct a dental expert to prepare a report in relation to any breaches of duty. It may be necessary for you to be examined by the dental expert.
  5. If the report is supportive to the case, we would then prepare a letter of claim to the negligent dental professional.
  6. It may then be necessary to obtain a further report to highlight the pain and suffering that you have suffered as a result of the negligent treatment.
  7. If liability is admitted, we would then prepare a full schedule of all the associated losses, together with placing a value on the injury claim. The case would then proceed to settlement.
  8. If liability is denied, the case would proceed to the issue of Court Proceedings, where the Judge would consider all the evidence and determine whether the dentist has been negligent.

How long do I have to make a Dental Negligence Claim?

The time limit for making a dental negligence claim is 3 years from your date of knowledge (i.e. the date you first realised that you may have been treated negligently).

There are some exceptions to the time limits for making a claim;

  • If you are making a claim for a child, then they will have 3 years from the date they turn 18 y/o (i.e. until their 21st Birthday) to make the claim
  • If you are claiming for someone who lacks mental ability under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, then there is no time limit to making a claim.

How much compensation could I claim for Dental Negligence?

The amount of compensation you receive will depend on the severity and complexity of your injury and will take into account, how long you have suffered, the level of pain and suffering, and how much it has cost to correct the negligent treatment. Additional items of loss may also be recoverable which may include lost earnings, travelling expenses and rehabilitation treatment fees if the negligent procedure has caused you to suffer psychological harm or distress. When valuing the claim our dedicated lawyers will work closely with you to ensure they understand the full and lasting effects the injury or negligent treatment may have had on you.

No win, No fee Dental Negligence Solicitors

If you believe you have suffered from dental negligence, arising from a delay in recognising or diagnosing your symptoms, or a mistake in the treatment you have received, please contact Forbes Solicitors dental negligence claims solicitors who will be able to advise you on whether you have a case and the process involved. We work on a no win no fee basis with a reduced success fee if the claim is successful.

For more information please contact John Bennett, Leonie Millard or Lisa Atkinson in our Clinical Negligence Department via email or telephone 01254 872 111. Alternatively, please send any questions through to Forbes Solicitors via our online contact form.

For more information contact Lisa Atkinson in our Clinical Negligence department via email or phone on 01254 222448. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Clinical Negligence department here

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