Dental practice in this day and age can be an expensive process to undertake, so you expect to get the best service for your money. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and dental surgeons can make mistakes, which results in an injury. If you fall into this category, then you are eligible to make a compensation claim.
Although dentists undergo separate training from doctors, they are regarded as being on a par with surgeons and can join both the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Indeed increasing numbers of dentists are qualifying as surgeons and are being registered with both the General Medical Council and the General Dental Council. Part of the reason for this is that it offers them increased scope to carry out lucrative facial surgery. Of course, with the greater role being played by dentists, there is greater scope for negative outcomes.
As with doctors, solicitors can pursue claims against dentists for two broad reasons: medical negligence or clinical malpractice. Although these terms are often used interchangeably and may be pursued by the same solicitors, legally speaking, they are, in fact, separate issues. Medical negligence relates to a failure to provide appropriate treatment for a given condition. This is often a result of misdiagnosis. Clinical malpractice was where the treatment was either inappropriate to the condition or was sub-standard.
There are two key points to note about dental malpractice claims. The first is that as with almost all legal matters, the onus is on the plaintiff to prove their case against the dentist rather than vice versa. It is a condition of claims that the plaintiff shows that they acted reasonably throughout. For example, failure to treat periodontal disease (gum disease) is a common reason for complaints against dentists. If, however, the plaintiff was a smoker, a dentist might respond that they had advised the plaintiff to stop smoking as it is recognised as being a factor in periodontal disease and that the plaintiff had ignored the advice. Whether or not the claim then progressed would depend on a variety of factors.
The other point to note is that all claims are looked at in context. For example, if a patient complains that the colour of a dental crown is not an exact match with that of their teeth, then this will raise the question of whether the plaintiff was reasonable to expect that it should. An obvious factor in this judgement will be the price of the crown. If it was simply a basic crown, then the conclusion might be that the plaintiff should have expected nothing more for the price. If on the other hand, it was an expensive one, then the patient’s expectation of a perfect match might seem much more reasonable.
Finally, it is accepted that any party accused of causing damage to another must be given an opportunity to rectify the situation before legal action can be brought. This also holds true in cases of medical/dental negligence. Some people may choose to communicate with their dentist themselves initially and if so should keep all correspondence. It can also be highly advisable for them to discuss their situation with a solicitor before agreeing to any final settlement. Other people may prefer to have an attorney handle the matter from the beginning.
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