Making a Claim for Compensation against a Dentist
Making compensation claims for dentist negligence is a complex process, as dentists are classified as medical practitioners and, as such, any negligent act performed by a dentist that results in an injury is considered to be medical negligence*. Consequently, the Injuries Board will decline to assess any claim for compensation against a dentist submitted by mistake, and will send you an “Authorisation” to pursue your compensation claim for negligent dental treatment through the courts.
However, it is not always necessary to initiate court action to resolve compensation claims for dentist negligence and, provided that your solicitor has compiled a sufficiently strong case of your behalf, it is likely that a justifiable compensation claim for negligent dental treatment will be settled out of court.
This article provides information about making a claim for compensation against a dentist and advocates at the end that you should speak with a solicitor at the earliest practical opportunity. We understand that this may not always be possible when you are still recovering from an oral injury and suggest that you leave a message on our contact page so that we may communicate by email if necessary.
Claim for a Wrong Tooth Extraction
Among the most obvious compensation claims for dentist negligence are when your dentist has extracted the wrong tooth. Not only is the pain of extracting a healthy tooth more intense than would be experienced if your dentist had removed a dead tooth, a claim for compensation against a dentist would have to include the costs of remedying the error with an implant or reconstructive treatment.
The first stage in making a claim for compensation against a dentist would be to make a formal complaint about the negligent treatment you received. This is best done with the assistance of your solicitor to ensure that there are no contradictions in your claim, and the complaint would also include a request for the dentist to release your dental history to your solicitor in order that it can be reviewed by an independent medical expert.
Although there is no justifiable defence against a claim for a wrong tooth extraction, it is still necessary to compile the strongest possible case on your behalf in the event that the dentist´s medical insurance company contest the claim for negligent dental treatment when they receive it. The “Letter of Claim” is usually sent once the independent medical expert has confirmed that your treatment was negligent, and all the consequences of your negligent dental treatment are apparent.
Compensation for a Wrong Tooth Removal
How much compensation for a wrong tooth removal you would be entitled to depends on the location of the tooth and your personal circumstances. Often the extraction of the wrong front tooth attracts higher settlements of compensation claims for dentist negligence because of the visibility of the error. Your age, sex and previous dental history will all be taken into account when calculating how much compensation for a wrong tooth removal your claim is valued at.
There is likely to be other contributing factors to the value of your claim for negligent dental treatment; such as if you are diagnosed with “dental anxiety” at the prospect of undergoing further dental treatment, if the wrong tooth removal triggers a loss of confidence or depression, or if the location of the incorrectly removed tooth causes you to forgo social or leisure pursuits that would form part of your regular routine.
You can also claim compensation for a wrong tooth removal to cover any costs you have incurred – we have already mentioned the costs associated with remedying the error, but you should be entitled to recover any income you have lost due to being unable to work, or any justifiable expenses you have incurred for painkillers, emergency private dental treatment, etc.
Compensation for a Dentist Error with Anaesthetic
Making a claim for compensation for a dentist error with anaesthetic is significantly more complicated than making a claim for a wrong tooth extraction, as a patient experiencing “anaesthetic awareness” during surgery could be in absolute agony and unable to communicate their distress, or just feeling the pressure that is being applied by the dentist´s tools, but not any pain.
It is exceptionally difficult to establish “how much pain” you may have experienced (and how much compensation for a dentist error with anaesthetic you should be entitled to), but a medical expert engaged by your solicitor should be able to determine by how much the anaesthetic you were given was above or below the appropriate dosage.
It is also possible to suffer an injury from an overdose of anaesthesia; and if you feel that a member of your family has started to lose their short-term memory after having a dental treatment which required the use of an anaesthetic, you should take them to hospital or your family doctor to be examined for Post-Operative Cognitive Decline (POCD).
Claim for Nerve Damage to Lips by Dentist
The value of a claim for nerve damage to the lips by a dentist is likely to be determined by the length of time it takes for you to recover from your injury. An injection of analgesics into the lips can result into the lips becoming completely numb and, although not painful as any sense of pain is eliminated, the injury can result in unintentional dribbling from the side of the mouth which is affected.
This can have the consequence of damaging a patient´s confidence, affect their ability to work and inhibit their participation in leisure and social pursuits to such an extent that they become depressed and anxious. A solicitor would consider these side effects when compiling a claim for nerve damage to the lips by a dentist and it may be necessary for you to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to ensure that you are fully compensated for your injury.
It is recommended in all compensation claims for dentist negligence that you maintain a diary to record the times you are unable to take part in pastimes that would form part of your regular life, as you will be able to recover compensation for your “loss of amenity” – the decline in your quality of life due to the negligence of your dentist.
Claim for Nerve Damage to Tongue by Dentist
Similarly, there is little that can be done except to wait for the effects to wear off when you have suffered a lingual nerve injury or tongue paresthesia due to your dentist´s lack of care. There is no defence against a claim for nerve damage to the tongue by a dentist, and you should be alert to any unsolicited approaches by your dentist´s medical insurance company once you have made a formal complaint.
Medical insurance companies are often keen to resolve compensation claims for dentist negligence as quickly as possible, but any approach you receive should always be referred to a solicitor in order to ensure that your compensation claim for negligent dental treatment is settled for a fair amount.
Should you inadvertently accept an offer in settlement of a claim for compensation against a dentist, and it prove inadequate to pay for the remedial treatment you need to reverse your dentist´s negligence – or support your family while you are unable to work – you cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more.
Orthodontic Surgeon Negligence Compensation Claims
Much of the orthodontic surgery performed in Ireland is carried out in children and, if your child has sustained an avoidable injury while undergoing orthodontic surgery, you will have to represent your him or her in a claim for negligent dental treatment as a “next friend”; as children are not allowed to initiate legal action or instruct a solicitor until they reach the age of eighteen.
The process for making orthodontic surgeon negligence compensation claims on behalf of children is similar to making any of the compensation claims for dentist negligence mention above; only you will have to be approved as a “next friend” by the District Court, and the settlement of your child´s claim for compensation against a dentist will be held in court funds until they reach eighteen years of age.
Any funds which are required for private remedial dental treatment can be withdrawn on application to the court; however, although there is no time limit in which a parent can make a compensation claim for negligent dental treatment on behalf of their child, it is always recommended that you speak with a solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity so that an independent medical expert can gather evidence of negligence while it is at its most recent.
Advice about Compensation Claims for Dentist Negligence
Because the Injuries Board has no remit to assess compensation claims for dentist negligence, you will need a solicitor to help you pursue a claim for compensation against a dentist. Most solicitors in Ireland offer a free initial consultation which will enable you to explain the circumstances of your injury and how it has affected you, and also to ensure that you feel comfortable with the solicitor representing you.
By speaking with a solicitor now, you are not committing to any course of action or obligated to use one solicitor´s services in preference to another and, as mentioned above, it may be particularly difficult for you to communicate your experience verbally while recovering from an oral injury. Consequently you are invited to drop us a line via out contact page, or have a friend or family member call on your behalf, to explain the nature of your negligent dental treatment and to get free advice about compensation claims for dentist negligence in Ireland.