There has been a marked increase in recent years in the number of dental negligence claims both in Ireland and abroad. This increase can be attributed to a growth in procedures generally available as well as in cosmetic dentistry conducted both in Ireland and overseas.
What constitutes negligence?
In order to bring a dental negligence claim in Ireland one must establish the existence of negligence. Your Solicitor’s first step in establishing whether there was negligence is to obtain a copy of your dental records. Once all of the relevant dental records are to hand your Solicitor will examine these records in consultation with you. Your Solicitor will endeavour to ascertain precisely what went wrong. Thereafter your Solicitor will consider whether the adverse event or actions of the Dentist constitute dental negligence. In order to prove that a Dentist is negligent, it is necessary to establish that no reasonably competent dental practitioner in the relevant field, at the relevant time, with the same qualifications and expertise, faced with the same circumstances, would have acted in the same way. If it is possible to show that a reasonable and competent body of dental opinion would have acted in the same way, then the dental care is not considered negligent.
Another hurdle one has to overcome is that of causation. This links the dental negligence (if established) with the adverse outcome. In other words, it needs to be established that but for the error on the part of the dentist(s) the injury/poor result would not have occurred. If this cannot be proven, there is no case in Dental Negligence. Not being satisfied with a dental treatment received does not necessarily amount to negligence. As with all dental procedures, sometimes there are adverse outcomes in dental treatment for non-negligent reasons.
Is there a time limit to make a claim?
The Statute of Limitations relates to the 'time limit' one has to make a claim. The Statute of Limitations is of particular importance in any personal injury claim. In dental negligence claims the ’time limit' is two years from the date of dental negligence. The law in Ireland allows an extended ’time limit’ where one did not have knowledge of their Dentist's wrongdoing or did not have knowledge that it was in fact the dentist’s wrongdoing that caused the respective injury. The law also allows extended ‘time limits’ for persons with intellectual impairment or in the case of Minors (persons under the age of 18 years). At the time of writing the Legal Services Bill is not yet enacted. It is anticipated that when enacted the time limit within which one can bring a medical negligence claim (including dental negligence) will be increased to three years.
For further advice on these issues, you are strongly advised to contact a member of the Medical Negligence Team at Cantillons Solicitors in order to ascertain what the specific time limits are in your case.
Can you claim against a Dentist abroad?
It is possible to bring an action against a Dentist in another country. If it is the case that dental treatment was performed negligently in another country it is open to you to bring your claim via the courts in that jurisdiction. An Irish-based Solicitor would assist by appointing a lawyer counterpart in that country to take the case.
The question also arises as to whether or not one can take a claim against an Irish dental agency which refers patients to an overseas clinic. A dental agency in Ireland can be found liable for dental negligence caused by a Dentist overseas. If it can be established that the referring agency were aware that their overseas Clinic was not adopting proper standards and procedures, then there may be a case to be made. These cases require a lot of investigation and it is important to engage a Solicitor to determine the prospects of success as against the referring agency for dental negligence abroad.
Like any personal injury case*, compensation may vary depending on the circumstances and severity of the injury/poor result caused. You may be entitled to:
damages for pain and suffering (physical and psychological),
out of pocket expenses including loss of earnings,
dental expenses including a refund of any monies already paid and any expenses incurred or likely to be incurred in correcting the damage caused to you.
Contact us at Cantillons Solicitors at +353 (0)21 -4275673 or [email protected] if you would like more information.
* In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage of any award or settlement.