The steps in your dental negligence claim
As a dental negligence solicitor since practising since 2001, I have dealt with many hundreds of dental claims worth many thousands of pounds. From claims worth £500 to claims worth in excess of £150,000.
I have dealt with dental claims for TV personalities, Actors and Actresses of stage and screen, along with rock and pop stars. Their claim was dealt with the same as yours and all of my claims are dealt with the same way, in plain English, with no legal or dental jargon and by me from beginning to end.
Steps in a typical dental negligence claim
The first stage of a dental claim is for you to make contact with me for initial advice usually by way of telephone. This advice is free of charge. Most of my work these days is by email and telephone. I still like to send the odd letter by snail mail if need be.
Fact finding and information gathering
If after talking to me I think your claim has at least some merit, I will then get you to complete one of my dental claim questionnaires so I can gather further information from you; things like your personal information, the names of the dentists that you have seen, whether you have taken previous advice and how to fund your dental claim along with other information which may be useful such as how much you have spent putting the negligent dental treatment right, and why you think that you dental treatment had gone wrong.
What do you have to prove to win a dental claim?
If I think your dental claim is strong enough in relation to proving a number of legal elements, then I will get you to sign my no win no fee agreement and sign a form of authority which will allow me to get access to your dental notes and dental records from each of the dentists listed on your dental claim questionnaire.
In order to claim damages from your dentist for negligent dental treatment, you need to be able to prove three things:
That you have suffered a dental injury;
That your dentist did something to your teeth that he or she was not supposed to do, or in fact failed to do something to your teeth that he or she was in fact supposed to do; (a breach of duty of care)
That the dental injury you suffered was caused by something that the dentist did or failed to do (causation of injury)
Breach of duty / Causation / Injury - must all be proved (usually using expert evidence from an independent dental expert) against your dentist in order to make a valid dental claim for dental neglect.
It is quite common to find in dental claims that a breach of duty has occurred, or rather that the dentist has acted (or failed to act) in a way in which was substandard. However, it is not enough in dental law to prove that the negligence made a difference to the outcome, this has to be proved “upon the balance of probabilities”. i.e, a greater than 50% chance.
Some dental negligence claims which are strong upon liability/breach of duty can fail upon causation, and this argument is often put forward by the legal teams acting for the dentists accused of negligent treatment.
For example, in a periodontal dental claim or a claim for gum disease, it is quite often argued by the dentists insurers that the patient failed to regularly attend dental appointments or failed to listen to the dentist when he or she was advising them to see a hygienist more regularly or perhaps gave advice to see a periodontist which was ignored. These types of legal argument are commonly raised when running a dental claim for periodontal or gum disease to try and help the dentist accused of dental negligence limit their liability.
Your dental notes and records
Once I have established that the core elements have been fulfilled, this is though experience and years of dealing with dental claims, I will then use your signed form of authority to obtain you dental notes and dental records from the dentists listed upon your dental claim questionnaire.
I will write to the dentist concerned with your negligent treatment to put them on notice of your claim and to get them to instruct their insurer (called their defence organisation) to deal with your claim on their behalf.
I will also write out to any other treating dentists for your notes and records.
The process of obtaining your dental notes and records can take up to 40 days under the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 but most dentists do produce their notes within a reasonable timeframe.
The letter of claim and the court rules
Once your dental notes and records have been obtained, I can then move onto the next stage in your claim which is to draft the letter of claim in accordance with the court rules to the dentist accused of your negligence. This letter of claim is usually very detailed and includes the following information:
A detailed chronology of your dental treatment
An explanation of your injury and the damage caused
The allegations of negligence against the dentist in question – These allegations are the crux of your dental claim and will form the basis of any legal claim should the matter progress into court proceedings.
Once you are happy with draft letter of claim, I will send it over to the defence organisation acting for the defendant dentist.
The letter of response
The defence organisation then has 4 months under the court rules to look at the allegations that have been made and formulate a reply called a letter of response. The response must either admit liability or deny liability giving reasons for the denial.
If an admission is made, then it is quite likely that a settlement offer will be made at that stage to try and negotiate an out of court settlement of your dental claim.
If the letter of response is a denial of liability, I will get your comments and observations upon the same and then advise you on the best way to proceed. This may include making our own settlement offer, walking away from the claim or issuing court proceedings for trial.
Call me on 01694 722 134 for free legal advice on your dental claim.
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