Podcast clarifies legal angle for sued dentists
An internet podcast is available to dentists explaining the legal procedures if sued by a patient.
The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has produced a podcast for its members to explain what happens if they find themselves in this situation.
The DDU’s claims-handling team manage hundreds of claims each year arising from members’ work.
Debbie Herbst, the DDU’s senior dental claims-handler, who features on the podcast, says: ‘While 50% of dental cases do not result in a settlement and fewer than 1% go to trial, this is little consolation for a DDU member who receives a letter from a claimants’ solicitor.
‘Dental professionals frequently feel angry and distressed and some knowledge of the way in which the claims process works may help them understand what to expect.
‘In our experience, it is also reassuring for members to have the DDU in their corner because it means they are kept up-to-date with progress and consulted about key decisions. Members also know that while it is not in anyone’s interests to defend the indefensible, we will not settle any claim for the sake of expediency.’
Among the key points in the podcast are:
• In law, clinical negligence is a failure to provide the standard of care to be expected of a dental professional with similar training, skills and experience. To succeed in a claim, claimants must prove that the dental professional owed them a duty of care; that he or she breached that duty, and that the patient suffered harm as a result. If successful, patients are entitled to compensation based on the severity of the harm they suffered and its impact on their life. Common reasons for claims include failed or delayed diagnosis, medication errors, administrative errors, concerns about seeking consent, communication problems, and poor outcomes from different types of dental treatment.
• Many cases of failed or delayed diagnosis involve an allegation of unnecessary pain and suffering and more extensive treatment than may otherwise have been necessary. For example, it may be alleged that there was a failure to diagnose dental decay or periodontal disease early on, which has resulted in the need for extensive treatment and/or loss of teeth.
• 70% of claims are notified to us within three years of the incident but it can be much longer, sometimes well over 10 years.