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Can You Sue a Dentist?

Having dental treatment can be stressful enough without considering the potential for something to go wrong. However, understanding your legal rights is essential when it comes to dental care and cosmetic dentistry as negligence can be experienced in both situations and can have far-reaching repercussions. If you have experienced negligence, you may be entitled to claim back compensation that can help to cover any costs that have arisen due to your poor treatment, as well as for the suffering you have experienced.

In the following blog post the dental negligence claims experts at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors guide you through the process of making a compensation claim, from understanding the legal framework in the UK to identifying dental negligence and taking the appropriate steps if you believe you've been subject to it.

The legal framework in the UK

Before diving into the specifics of dental negligence compensation, it's important to understand your rights when faced with negligent care. The General Dental Council (GDC) is the body responsible for regulating dental professionals, ensuring that they meet certain standards of care. In legal terms, every dental professional has a duty of care towards their patients, meaning they are obligated to provide a reasonable standard of care. If a medical professional breaches this duty of care, they can cause harm and be held accountable for it by law.

What constitutes dental negligence?

Dental negligence outlines the act of a medical professional breaching their duty of care and causing harm. To make a claim, you will have to prove that it has reasonably affected you, either due to physical or mental health suffering, or financially. involves a breach of the "duty of care" that a dental professional owes to their patients. Below are some common examples of situations that are often considered dental negligence, and that we have helped people to make claims for:

Improper treatment

Even with the correct diagnosis, things can go awry during the treatment phase. In terms of cosmetic dentistry, this could involve using the wrong technique, administering the wrong type of anaesthesia or even using contaminated equipment. Any of these instances can lead to complications, necessary further treatments and additional pain and suffering for the patient.

Failure to obtain informed consent

Before any dental procedure can take place, it's the dentist's responsibility to explain the risks and benefits to the patient, who must then agree to undergo the procedure with this knowledge in mind. This is known as obtaining 'informed consent.' If a dentist proceeds with a treatment without adequately informing the patient, or if the patient's consent is not properly documented, this could be grounds for a negligence claim.

Inadequate aftercare

Proper aftercare is crucial for any dental procedure, and failure to provide adequate instructions for the procedure that patients should take, or not offering necessary follow-up appointments, can lead to complications such as infections, treatment failure or prolonged healing times.

Cosmetic errors

Errors in procedures like teeth whitening, veneers or dental implants can result in harm or not achieving the promised results due to a dentist's fault.

How to identify dental negligence

If you suspect that you've been treated with dental negligence, there are several signs to look out for. These can vary depending on the type of dental work you have had, and the errors that have led it to be negligent, but can include:

  • Persistent pain following treatment
  • Unexpected complications or side effects
  • The need for corrective treatment

It's crucial to keep all medical records and documentation related to your treatment as these can serve as pivotal evidence if you decide to make a dental negligence claim. You should also consider seeking a second opinion from another, independent dental professional to assess whether negligence has occurred.

What steps should you take if you believe you've been subject to negligent dental treatment?

If you suspect you've been subject to dental negligence you should act quickly to take the right initial steps to protect your rights.

Gather evidence

While it might not be your top priority, gathering evidence following your negligent dental treatment can provide you with proof of your circumstances that are difficult to dispute and will make the dental negligence claim process more straightforward.

  • Medical records are essential to proving that your treatment caused you physical and mental health issues. As soon as possible after your treatment, seek medical help and the diagnosis can be a strong piece of evidence.
  • Clear, well-lit photographs of the affected area, both before and after treatment if possible, can serve as visual evidence of any harm or complications and are difficult to dispute.
  • Witness statements from people who witnessed your condition and the effects of the negligent cosmetic dental treatment are valuable. Ask them to write down what they observed.

Consult a dental negligence solicitor

Once you've gathered your evidence, the next step is to consult a solicitor who specialises in dental negligence cases. A specialised negligent cosmetic dentistry solicitor can:

  • Evaluate the strength of your case
  • Guide you through the legal process
  • Help you understand what compensation you may be entitled to

As soon as you are able to, contact a solicitor - such as those at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors -  and they will be able to explain the dental negligence claims process to you. 

File a complaint

Making a formal complaint with the dental practice gives the practice an opportunity to resolve the issue, and their response can also serve as evidence in your case. The steps for filing a complaint are usually outlined in the practice's complaints procedure, which should be publicly available.

Start by filing a complaint with the practice itself. Detail the issues you've experienced and ask for an explanation or remedy.

If you're not satisfied with the response from the dental practice, or if you believe the issue is severe enough, you may also file a complaint with the General Dental Council (GDC). The GDC can investigate issues of professional misconduct and can take disciplinary action against the dental professional involved.

Making your case

If you decide to go ahead with your claim, your solicitor will work to build your case by collecting more evidence and compiling it all to make an argument as to why you deserve compensation.

From here, your solicitor will communicate with the negligent dentist or their insurer to inform them that a claim is being made against them. Your solicitor will handle all of the communication on your behalf so you can focus on your recovery. In some cases, the other party will agree to deal with your clam when presented with a strong case, and we will be able to proceed directly to negotiating your compensation amount. However, if the other party disputes their part in your negligent treatment, court proceedings may become necessary, during which your solicitor will represent your interests and fight to secure your compensation.

If your solicitor is successful in the negotiations or court proceedings, we will make sure that the other party meets their obligations and your compensation is paid to you.

What does dental negligence compensation cover?

Compensation for dental negligence is generally divided into two main categories:

General damages are awarded for the pain, suffering, and loss of amenity you've experienced as a result of the dental negligence. This can include compensation for the immediate and ongoing physical pain caused by the negligent treatment, conditions like anxiety, depression or phobias, and the impact on your day-to-day life, such as difficulties eating, speaking or performing your job.

The amount awarded for general damages can vary widely depending on the severity of your condition and its long-term impact on your life. Medical assessments and expert testimony are often used to determine the extent of these damages.

Special damages are more specific, compensating you for any financial losses you've incurred as a result of the dental negligence. This can include medical expenses, travel costs, loss of earnings and any other out-of-pocket expenses you are facing due to the negligent treatment.

To successfully claim both general and special damages, you will need to keep detailed records of all related expenses, medical treatments and how the negligence has impacted your life. Your solicitor will use this information to build a strong case and ensure that you receive the compensation you're entitled to.

How much compensation can I claim for negligent cosmetic dentistry?

Due to the wide range of factors involved in calculating compensation, it is impossible to offer an estimate of how much you can expect to claim here. Generally, the higher your expenses and the more severe your suffering, the more compensation you will be able to claim. When you call our team, we will be able to offer you an estimate based on our assessment of your circumstances.

Can I claim dental negligence compensation?

To find out whether you are able to make a claim, speak to our expert dental negligence solicitors as soon as you are able. We have worked with many clients to make claims for cosmetic procedures. We approach every case on a no win, no fee basis, meaning you will not have to pay your legal fees to us if we are unsuccessful in your claim. This means you are at minimal financial risk when deciding to make a dental negligence claim with Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors.

To learn more, call us today on 0808 120 5180, or fill out an online contact form and we will be in touch at a time convenient for you.

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Russell Sutton is a partner at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors, with a comprehensive understanding of the complexities surrounding dental negligence cases. Russell's commitment to his clients is unmatched, as he empathises with the emotional and physical toll that dental negligence can take on people’s lives.

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