What do I do if I receive a claim?

Receiving a negligence claim can be upsetting, but we can help guide and support you through the process. Here's what you need to know.

Stay calm, act quickly, contact us

Being sued by a patient or someone related to them can be an unpleasant shock for any dental professional, and a claim for clinical negligence often comes without warning. Solicitors' letters may be written in a forceful and occasionally threatening style; the claim will be based largely on what the patient has told them and may not seem fair, accurate or reasonable to you.

Remember, claims are handled differently to complaints. For information on what to what to do if you receive a complaint, read our separate guide.

Here's what to do if you receive a notification of a claim.

  • Don't reply to the letter directly; contact us as soon as possible on 0800 374 626. It is our role to act on your behalf throughout the claim process. Our dento-legal team is available 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and advice is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for dento-legal emergencies or urgent queries.
  • Act quickly; strict timetables are set in law. Tell us immediately, so we have plenty of time to prepare your defence.

Don't take the tone or contents of the letter personally. Remember, even with the stress and upset you may feel because of one unhappy patient, many of your patients value your help and expertise and are thankful for the treatment you provide.

How will the DDU help?

  • We'll send you a claims pack telling you how to put together the essential documents you'll need to send us.
  • We will then usually write to the patient - known as the claimant - or their solicitors, informing them we have received their notification and confirming we will be looking after you.
  • We will tell you about any key developments. This may include advising you we believe there is no reasonable chance of the claim proceeding or that it has become time-barred.
  • We will continue to liaise with you throughout the claim and discuss with you all decisions that may affect your professional position, including any decision about a proposed settlement.
  • You can call us at any time to check on the progress of your claim, or ask us to contact you regularly, even if we have nothing to report.

Your factual account

  • We will ask you for a full, typed factual account of the events in question, with reference to your clinical notes. You should also include details of any witnesses who can support your account or provide further evidence.
  • If it's been a while since the incident happened and it's difficult to remember everything that happened, you should comment on your clinical management based on what you would usually do, and from looking at your notes that you made at the time of the alleged incident.
  • One of our dento-legal advisers and/or any expert we instruct on your behalf will look at your point of view with the patient's clinical records, and use it as the starting point for your defence if the case proceeds to court.

What documentation will you need to provide?

If you need to send your request for assistance and/or any relevant documents to us, please do so by email to claims@theddu.com, making sure you include your membership number in the subject field.

If there is something you can't send digitally, please discuss this with the claims handler allocated to handle your case.

We will need to see all the papers and records you have that relate to the claim. Don't withhold anything, and don't make any changes to the documents - no matter how brief, scruffy, abbreviated or hurriedly written they are.

If you feel you need to give us more information, or you want to make a correction, you will need to give this to us in a separate note. We will make a copy of the records you send us and return any necessary information once the case is closed.

You will need to provide the following:

  • a signed letter/note from you, asking for assistance, and giving your consent for us to act on your behalf
  • the original solicitors' letter or request for recompense or court documents and/or standard form of request for disclosure of records, together with a note of the date on which you received it
  • your consent for us to show the records to the patient or the patient's representative as and when we need to and a statement confirming that you have sent all the records you have
  • a full clinical report, in date order, of your own advice, care and treatment, together with the full name(s) and contact details of any other dental professional(s) or persons involved in the treatment
  • your detailed comments on the allegations
  • your preferred contact details for all future communications.

We will need all the records you have in your control relating to the patient. This should include all paper records, including any old or archived paper records, and all computer records, which should be sent as a .PDF or Microsoft Word document. Please do not send these as an Excel spreadsheet as it's not possible for us to use them in this format.

The records may include any of the following:

  • the patient's clinical notes - scanned paper notes or copies of computer-held records
  • a record of the relevant entries in the clinical notes; it should be clear on the record who exactly is responsible for each entry (for example, by the initials of the staff involved)
  • a clear copy of any relevant entries in the appointment diary or message book
  • any radiographs, clinical photographs, CT scans, study models or other laboratory work/records
  • any communications with other healthcare professionals, such as referral letters or consultants'/specialists' reports.

Send the original documents to us as soon as possible.

Any of the documents you send in must not be altered or amended in any way. You don't have to redact the patient's name or any other patient identifying information, except for references to medical information relating to third parties.


  • Only a small proportion of dental claims ever go to court.
  • The DDU would never offer to settle a claim without your consent.

This page was correct at publication on 21/11/2023. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.


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