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The short answer:

To prove dental negligence your solicitor will obtain an expert witness report from an independent senior dentist who will review your treatment and prepare an expert report commenting upon whether any treatment you received was negligent.

The detailed answer:

Dental negligence is a type of professional negligence.  Someone is professionally negligent when the treatment they provide falls below the standard expected of a competent professional. Therefore, if the treatment you received fell below the standard expected of a competent dentist it will be negligent.

Of course, the only people who can accurately say whether one professional has been negligent is another professional who does the same work (though an experienced dental negligence solicitor will likely know from past cases the type of things that are negligent).

Senior professionals in various areas work as expert witnesses.  For example, a senior dentist may also do expert witness work.  Solicitors then instruct these expert witnesses to review a case and prepare expert reports upon whether something was negligent.

So, if someone believes their dentist may have been negligent then they can approach a solicitor to investigate and, in turn, that solicitor will obtain the dental treatment records and send them to an expert witness senior dentist for review.

Sometimes an expert’s report will find many instances of negligence including some things the patient/client were entirely unaware of.  Or, in other instances, an expert may agree that treatment or patient care was poor but they may not feel it was poor enough to be qualify as negligent.

If a client disagrees with an expert report then sometimes it is possible to obtain an alternative opinion as different experts can have different views.

So, if the dental expert believes there was negligence, does it mean I win my case? Unfortunately, it is not quite as simple as that.

Firstly, the defendant dentist will have his or her own legal representation who will also have the treatment reviewed by an expert.  Their expert may agree or disagree with your expert’s views.

Sometimes this leads to a “battle of experts” whereby both sides stand by their own expert’s views.  Whilst, generally, there is usually some form of settlement reached, because both sides realise the risk of the Judge finding in favour of the other party, sometimes if no reasonable offers are made there could need to be a trial in which the Judge listens to both expert witnesses and decides who they will go with.

For this reason it is crucial that your solicitor instructs a high quality and experienced expert witness who will stand up to the defendant expert witness, including at court if needs be. Secondly, the other hurdle that still needs to be cleared even if there is negligence is something called “causation.”

Causation

Once it has been established that your dentist provided negligent treatment, it must then be established that this has led to you suffering an injury/loss which would not have been suffered had there not been negligence. In other words, you must be able to prove that the negligent dental treatment has led to an avoidable adverse outcome.

Again, establishing ‘causation’ will involve obtaining the opinion of an independent dental expert who will comment upon your current condition and compare this to what your condition would have been in the absence of negligent treatment.

Why Aston Knight?

As you might have picked up from our website already, at the very heart of our firm is our record of obtaining better results than our competition, something we market as ‘The Aston Knight Difference‘.

This is as true for dental negligence as it is for our other areas.  Consider this recent example in which a firm that markets itself as the leading dental negligence firm in the Country advised a client that he did not have a case (he also tried a local firm who were equally unsupportive): Mr A suffered a substantial number of dental complications, including having to have a number of teeth removed, as a result of negligent treatment by his previous dentist over a period of over 10 years.

Before approaching Aston Knight Solicitors he approached a large specialist dental negligence firm who advised him that he did not have a case. He also spoke to another firm who provided similar advice. Aston Knight Solicitors however accepted the case, obtained specialist evidence from a senior dental expert regarding the negligence, issued court proceedings and then negotiated a final settlement of £45,000 with which Mr A was delighted.

The dentist in question has been struck off but, unfortunately, many former patients in the Bury and Ramsbottom area were affected by his negligence over a number of years. James Winterbottom, solicitor, who dealt with the case commented: this case highlights the need for clients to seek specialist legal advice where they have concerns regarding historic treatment. Whilst there is generally three years from the date of negligence to start court action or settle a claim, this deadline can be extended where the negligence comes to light later on, but action must be taken as soon as the apparent negligence comes to light. The case also highlights the importance of seeking second, or even third, legal opinions as otherwise viable cases may not be pursued.

We have strong links with the leading dental negligence barristers and expert witnesses and consider this a specialism of ours.

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If you need legal advice from qualified solicitor, don't hesitate to contact us.

If you have suffered due to negligent dental treatment and you would like a free consultation to discuss your options, please call Aston Knight Solicitors today on 0161 399 1231 or click the ‘Contact’ button above to submit an online enquiry and one of our dedicated Solicitors will contact you to discuss your claim further.

Andrew Thompson (Senior Solicitor)

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