As a specialist dental negligence solicitor I often have to explain in layman's terms to my clients the nature of breach of duty and causation.
There has long been caselaw to suggest that doctors and dentists owe a duty of care to their patients. To be successful in a dental claim, a client must prove a breach of that duty of care by showing that the dentist did something which he/she ought not to have done, or failed to do something which really should have been done. That is breach of duty in a nutshell. The way breach of duty is established is to ask an expert in the relevant field what the correct method of treatment should be hence the need for expert witnesses.
Injury is also relatively easy to prove. Most of my dental claim clients can quite easily tell me what injuries have occurred to them. The tricky area is "causation". In order to be successful in any dental claim, there must be a direct causal link between the breach of duty of care and the injury that the client has suffered - if there is any kind of break in the chain of causation, then the claim will fail.
Defendant dentists insurers are very clever. They are very good at raising issues of causation and do so in most dental claims.
For example, in a claim for gum disease which has not been diagnosed, the other side will often raise issues which question causation such as whether the patient is a regular attender, whether the patients is a smoker, whether the patient has good oral hygiene, whether the patient consumes too much sugar etc etc, all of these arguments weaken the claimants case in relational to causation and sometimes the arguments are so strong that the claim has to be reconsidered.
Contact me on 01694 722 134 if you think you may have a claim against your dentist.