Too often dentists in the UK fail to give their patients a high enough standard of care and in such situations this lead to long term dental complications and physical and emotional trauma. To claim against your dentist you need three things. You need there to be a duty of care, a breach of the duty and the breach caused the injury. The first one is the simplest hurdle to leap and that is the duty of care. A dentist will automatically have a duty of care towards his patient when he is working on them.
It is the two following tests that could be problematic and which we are going to look at in a bit more detail now.
Breach of Duty
In a claim against your dentist the usual personal injury test of a reasonable man does not apply. Instead the Court will consider whether the dentist acted in a way that was reasonable compared to other dental professionals. (If it was a dental nurse who had been potentially negligent then she would be compared to other dental nurses).
Within the medical profession be it dentists or doctors there is a general rule that if they acted in a way which at least 10% of other dentists/doctors would have acted then it is likely that a medical negligence claim against your dentist would be unsuccessful.
If a Dentist performed a root canal on a patient but the patient was left with severe pain because of it he could potentially claim for it. However if the Dentist was performing the root canal in a manner where other dentists would have done the same it is highly unlikely it would be successful unless he did something else negligent.
Unfortunately just because the dental treatment has gone wrong it doesn’t mean that there will necessarily be a claim against your dentist. He will only be liable if he falls below the standard of a reasonably competent practitioner in the field of dentistry.
Obviously this consideration of reasonable competent practitioners is only relevant when it considers the judgment of the dentist in question. If they acted in a blatantly negligent way then a breach of duty will be easier to confirm.
With a claim against your dentist the claimant will likely be claiming that because of the injuries that they received they failed to recover from their pre-existing conditions or the original condition has now become worse as a result of the treatment . In an extreme example relatives may argue that the death of the victim was caused by the negligent action of the dentist (although it is rare that this will happen).
When considering whether the treatment caused the damage they must consider the medical knowledge of the time. If the negligence by the dentist comes to light at a time when procedures and dentistry has moved on they should not consider it from this standard but rather the standards at the time of the procedure.
In order to succeed the Claimant has to prove that the breach caused the injury. If for example the patient died whilst being treated but they would have died whether the dentist was treating them or not then the Dentist would not have been negligent.
The Claimant also needs to show that if because of the negligent treatment they failed to recover from a certain condition, there must be a greater than 50% chance that they would have recovered from it if it wasn’t for the negligence. If the chance of recovery was less than 50% then it is doubtful that the negligence claim will be successful.
It is therefore obvious that a claim against your doctor is intrinsically more difficult than a standard PI claim.
Are you a victim of dental negligence?
If you have been the victim of dental negligence and believe that you may be entitled to compensation, please call us on 0800 014 8727 or 020 3923 0888 to discuss your case, or alternatively, fill out our simple online enquiry form and we will call you back at a time convenient to you.
Our professional team will be more than happy to discuss your case with you and advise you on whether our solicitors will be able to assist on a no win no fee basis.