Why dental negligence claims are “different”

A solicitor once said to me that they needed a barrister who “got” dentistry. They had a point.

For a start, there is the need to get your head around the nomenclature. There are at least three ways of tooth notation in common use in this country and that’s without the problem that arises when one of the molar teeth (the big ones at the back) is removed and another shifts along to take its place. What specific teeth are we looking at now – a first and second molar, a first and third molar, a second and third molar ? and anyway, which one of those was the one which had the treatment in question three years ago?

Then there’s the problem that, unlike with a person’s NHS GP records, dental records don’t usually follow a patient from practice to practice. So when investigating a dental claim, it’s sometimes necessary to trawl back in time.

The majority of dentists in general dental practices are self-employed, even if they are not the practice owner. That’s not always the case, but most of the time it is. So whereas it’s perfectly reasonable for a patient with a complaint to use the practice complaints policy first of all, when it comes to making a legal claim, it is most usually necessary to bring it against the specific dentist or dentists, not simply the practice.
And then there’s the problem which is like the one where you take your car for a service and it breaks down a week later due to something that the service simply could not have revealed or prevented. There are plenty of things that should be checked during a dental examination, but there are some things that simply can’t be found out. If nature lets you down a week after your check-up, it may just be one of those things.
A preliminary advice on merits from an experienced dental barrister can assist with investigating a potential claim and managing expectations appropriately.

Contact Heather Beckett

Instructing solicitors are warmly invited to contact Heather at Goldsmith Chambers:

h.beckett@goldsmithchambers.com
Phone: 0207 353 6802
e-mail:  clerks@goldsmithchambers.com