We frequently see enquiries from clients who have concerns about treatment they have received from a dentist. Dental matters can be wide ranging in terms of their seriousness and impact on the patient.
What is a simple dental claim?
These sorts of matters involve a straightforward error by the dentist which has resulted in limited damage to the patient. For example: if a dentist takes the wrong tooth out. The error is clear and the costs of ameliorating the error will be associated with the dental repair, some limited time off work and possible compensation linked with any psychological sequelae associated with a changed physical appearance. The limited nature of the compensatory damages that are likely to be recovered in a case like this would mean it that we would usually enter into negotiations with the dentist’s insurer to achieve a settlement without filing court proceedings.
What if I had unnecessary dental treatment?
Unnecessary dental treatment is something that we encounter from time to time. There is a very famous landmark case which involved unnecessary dental treatment.
In the case of Dean v Phung  NSWCA 223 the patient had been subjected to unnecessary dental treatment by his dentist Dr Phung. Todd Dean incurred injuries to his mouth in a workplace accident and subsequent dental consultations were funded by the workers compensation insurer. Dr Phung performed root canal therapy on Todd Dean and fitted crowns to all of his teeth. The treatment was unnecessary. While the New South Wales Court of Appeal agreed that Todd Dean had consented to the treatment, the court found that his consent had been vitiated by fraud. This meant that the dental treatment was performed without the consent of the patient. At law that amounted to a civil assault by Dr Phung on Todd Dean.
The part of the Civil Liability Act (2002) NSW which dictates the amount of damages which can be paid to people who have suffered injuries due to negligence does not apply to people who have suffered their injuries due to an assault. Further there are additional heads to damage which are available when someone has been assaulted civilly which are aimed at punishing the defendant and / or compensating the plaintiff.
What if my dental injuries have caused long lasting damage to my teeth, jaw and self-esteem?
We see cases where people have had long lasting relationships with a dentist only to realise sometimes years later that there were fundamental problems with the dental care they received. These sorts of cases can involve:
- Performing poor quality orthodontic work;
- Performing work outside the scope of the dentist’s expertise. For example: performing complex orthodontic work without being an orthodontist;
- Failing to refer a patient for specialist review or treatment;
- Recommending treatment which would never successfully treat the patient’s dental problems;
- Failing to treat the underlying cause of the person’s dental problems;
- Poor surgical technique with placing implants;
- Failing to carry out root canal therapy correctly;
- Crowning teeth without treating the underlying dental problems; and/ or
- Allowing gum disease to get out of control and impact jaw bone density.
Where the negligence is more serious the impact on the patient can be devastating. Serious dental negligence can mean that further complex, time consuming, painful specialist dental assistance is required to repair the damage.
Further the teeth are an intergral part of a person’s appearance. They impact the way people interact with each other. A person who has suffered serious dental injuries might; be embarrassed to talk to others, cover their mouth when they talk, suffer from bad breath due to ongoing decay, be unable to eat foot in front of other people and suffer embarrassment if their temporary teeth drop out in front of others. A person with these kinds of dental problems is likely to become upset and withdrawn. This in turn may affect their ability to work particularly if their work involved close interactions with others.
What can be claimed?
Financial compensation can be claimed for: pain and suffering, past and future treatment expenses, past and future wage losses, past and future domestic assistance together with legal costs and disbursements.
There are time limits which apply to personal injury claims. You should seek legal advice promptly if you have suffered injuries in relation to a cosmetic procedure to ensure that you can access all the compensation to which you are entitled to claim.
At Remedy Law Group we work on a no win no fees basis, which means that you will only be required to pay our legal costs if we achieve a successful outcome for you and our first consultation is always free.